Breaking Down the Dwane Casey Firing

Dwane CaseyAll good things must come to an end. This end seems a bit premature considering how successful the Raptors have been in the NBA regular season, but as many pundits have noted, the regular season does not matter in professional basketball.

The Raptors fired Dwane Casey on May 11, following yet another early exit in the playoffs. Toronto continued to run into a wall in the postseason. That wall is named LeBron James. James has dispatched the Raptors each of the last three years, including two straight sweeps in the Conference Semifinals. It is pretty clear something needs to change in Toronto and Casey might just be the catalyst for larger moves.

But why fire a coach to bring back the same team the following year? That is the question right now when analyzing this situation. Casey was far from the root of the problem in Toronto. He is a finalist for Coach of the Year. He also put the Raptors in a position to succeed in the postseason, as the team earned home-court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Most of the blame for this year’s playoff collapse can be attributed to DeMar DeRozan and Serge Ibaka. DeRozan averaged 16.8 points, 4 rebounds and 2.8 assists during the series against the Cavaliers. Solid numbers for most, but disappointing for a player who is supposed to be leading his team offensively. He scored 67 points in the series on 66 shots. His inability to get to the line or shoot from behind the arc seriously limits his value. Ibaka was even worse, averaging 8.5, 6.3 and 1 in those same categories. He is not meant to do a whole lot offensively, but he was not very effective, shooting just 44 percent for the series. DeRozan and Ibaka combine for almost $50 million in cap space for Toronto next year, 38.7 percent of the team’s total.

Firing Casey only really makes sense if the Raptors’ front office goes for a massive makeover this offseason. Otherwise, this move makes very little sense. Kyle Lowry, Jonas Valanciunas and Ibaka are all under contract until 2020. DeRozen hangs around another year after that. In fact, 12 of the Raptors’ 15 players from this season have contracts that extend into next year.

In short, this is going to be basically the same team as it was a year ago. Toronto has close to zero potential to add free agents, as it has no cap space and already used a mid-level exception on C.J. Miles. Additionally, the Raptors do not have a single pick in this year’s draft. GM Bobby Webster can hope he can strike gold with another player on a minimum deal who greatly outperforms the deal like he did when he brought in Fred VanVleet. The likelihood of that occurring is seemingly low.

DeMar DeRozanThe best solution for Toronto moving forward is to cut bait with DeRozan and/or Ibaka this offseason via trade. The unfortunate truth is that this Raptors core is not capable of winning a championship. It needs to be revamped or rebuilt. This is more than LeBron simply being the team’s kryptonite.

It would be easy to say, just wait out the Warriors and Rockets, build for the future. However, the Celtics seem to be on the verge of creating a dynasty. The 76ers might be a title-contender by next year.

Becoming a true title-contender can be done in a short time frame too. In 2016, the Rockets were the eighth seed in the West, losing in five games. Two years later, they had the best record in the NBA and pose a legitimate threat to the Warriors. The catalyst was reworking a roster that already had a franchise player. If nothing else, Houston should provide a blueprint for Toronto on how to go from good to great.

Not entirely sure where the Raptors go from here as an organization, but this offseason is going to be crucial for the team’s future plans.

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This One Hurts

I’m not mad. Just disappointed.

It’s that cliche line your parents used on you when you were a teenager to make you feel guilty about what you did. It also sums up how I feel about Kevin Durant heading to Golden State.

Kevin Durant
Durant was a 7-time All-star in his time with Oklahoma City. (Wikimedia Commons)

I get it. The chance to win a title is tantalizing. Playing with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green definitely seems appealing. The money was good too. That doesn’t mean I can’t be disappointed in the decision.

Durant came so close to knocking off the Warriors with his running mate Russell Westbrook. Blowing a 3-1 lead in the conference finals is about as close as you can get without sealing the deal. Durant gave up the chance to do something special in OKC for a perceived easy ring with the Warriors.

Signing with Golden State is similar to when LeBron James left the Cavaliers for Miami. But in reality it is even more of a cop out. James at least went to a building team. The Heat were good before he got there, but he arrived with Chris Bosh to make them a true contender. On top of that, Miami didn’t win the title until James’ second year in South Beach.

The Warriors are already well established, having gone to the last two NBA Finals and winning a championship. They already have an incredible core of guys who have fueled this mini dynasty. Durant joining this team is much worse than what LeBron did and it truly is disappointing. Had he signed pretty much anywhere else, even San Antonio, this wouldn’t feel like so much of a betrayal.

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With Durant joining the Warriors, the MVP from the last three years plays for Golden State. (Wikimedia Commons)

Durant’s signing in Golden State is also polarizing for fans. It will be nothing short of annoying to have another super team dominating the league. However, it will also cause fans to tune in to see what the group can accomplish. Nothing is guaranteed either. As I just said, the Heat didn’t win the first season they had their big three. The Warriors could slip up and choke again, like they did this year. That alone makes them worth watching.

If I’m honest, I don’t think this team is as much of a lock to be better than last year’s team. I don’t see them winning 74 games. I wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t win 70. Yes they will be good, but like all teams that have a mix of new pieces, there will be some growing pains. This is more turnover than the Warriors have seen in some time. Andrew Bogut, Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezili are all gone. Durant and Zaza Puchillia just arrived.

In some ways, this creates new intrigue in the NBA season. The Heat used to be the villains of the league, which is the role the Warriors will now play. Millions of fans tuned into the NBA playoffs during those years in hopes of watching Miami thwarted in their attempts to create a dynasty. I have a feeling that the playoffs will do the same thing this year in the NBA, as all watch to see if Golden State falters. The regular season may not be great, but these playoffs will draw a lot of eyeballs.

While I am not a fan of the move, you can hardly blame Durant. Nothing is guaranteed, but this gives him the best chance to win a title, which we know is crucial in terms of leaving a lasting legacy in the NBA. Getting one puts you into the conversation of being great.

So yes, I understand why Durant did it. I respect his decision, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

Good For Colin Kaepernick

Well, I’ve been away for a while (sorry Will), but I am back to talk about probably the most controversial issue in sports.

At some point, I knew I was going to have to weigh in on this one. He has quickly become the most polarizing person in America not named Donald Trump (cause no one is touching him in that category). He is making a difference and in many ways showing that there is still a lot of racism and social injustice in this country.

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Kaepernick has not played in a regular season game this season. (Wikimedia Commons)

His method hasn’t been perfect, but Colin Kaepernick is turning heads and igniting a conversation about social injustice in the United States. Not to mention that his jersey sales are through the roof. And rather than just pocket the gains, Kaepernick is pledging the proceeds to local communities.

In theory, Kaepernick shouldn’t be anything people pay attention to, but he has become the most polarizing player in the NFL since maybe Tim Tebow. Cops and military personnel around the country have been split on support or disdain for Kaepernick. San Francisco police unions even threatened to stop working 49er games.

Fan reaction overall has been very split. According to a survey of 1,100 NFL fans, Kaep was named the most disliked player in the league. However, his jersey sales led the league in the month of September. Kaep took the proceeds he received and donated it to local Bay Area communities.

Kaepernick definitely crossed the line a little bit with his choice of socks, but outside of that, I really feel that he has done nothing wrong. NFL players are not required, only encouraged, to stand during the national anthem.

All of us are familiar with the first amendment. Many of us cite it all the time as one of the greatest things about our country. It ensures that people like me can continue to pursue a career in journalism. Freedom of speech is an important thing in this country. People seem infuriated by Kaepernick doing one of the most American things possible. He is evoking his first amendment rights to spark a conversation about American society.

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A handful of Kaepernick’s teammates have joined him in the quiet protest. (Wikimedia Commons)

And Kaep has accomplished a lot of what he set out to do. He has started that conversation and it is being held by all of us across the country. Other sports leagues are taking notice. Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles was under the spotlight when he said that MLB players weren’t doing enough. Several NBA teams are joining arms in a sign of unity during the national anthem, similar to how the Seattle Seahawks did when they played the rival 49ers. Even soccer got in on the action as Megan Rapinoe started taking a knee during the nation anthem while playing for the U.S. Women’s National team.

Several times in history, sports have been an area where social and political protests start. This is no different than any other protest in history. I applaud Kaepernick for what he has done so far in starting this conversation. I think it is one that needs to be had.

I get that a lot of people are not happy with his actions. I know that September 11 is a day that hits home for all of us and that NFL players protesting on that day is bordering on insensitive, but isn’t it more insensitive if we don’t listen? This is no secret that our country has issues with the way that police and minorities interact. It might be nobody’s fault, but that does not mean that the problem should be ignored. Kaepernick found a way to start the conversation. Now it is our job to continue it.

This Rose is Perfect for the Garden

They don’t have a pick in tonight’s draft, currently on ESPN, but the Knicks made a major move to land Derrick Rose in a trade with Chicago.

I’ve heard a lot of different reactions to the deal so far and I wanted to weigh in on the deal. It makes way too much sense for New York. And here’s why.

Derrick Rose
Rose averages 19.7 points per game in his career. (Wikipedia Commons)

First of all, they really didn’t give up very much to bring Rose over. The Knicks sent an aging backup point guard, a future sixth man and a solid center to the Bulls in exchange for a former MVP with the potential to change the whole team. Jose Calderon is dead weight, Jerian Grant is a tossup with less potential and Robin Lopez is not exactly a superstar.

Rose has a ton potential. He has a well-documented injury history, but when healthy, the point guard has been sensational. He won the MVP award in 2010. He has a history of being great. Grant, Calderon and Lopez all do not. That right there makes this trade worthwhile.

Considering how bad the Knicks have been the past few years, it would be hard for this deal to make them much worse. There is essentially no risk in making this deal and there is a whole lot of potential reward.

That reward goes beyond just Rose’s contributions for 2016. His very presence in New York could attract some bigger free agents. The possibilities are endless. Obviously, the biggest grab would be Kevin Durant, but even some other options like Al Horford, Roy Hibbert, J.R. Smith and more now will find the Knicks a much more desirable team to join. Not to mention, if Rose has a big year and decides to stay on with the Knicks, they look very attractive to future free agents as well.

Phil Jackson also brings in someone who knows how to win and has a history of winning. That could be part of the culture change many figured he would bring the Big Apple when he was hired as general manager and team president.

Russell Westbrook
Westbrook will be an unrestricted free agent in 2017. (Wikipedia Commons)

The biggest thing that this deal gives New York though is cap flexibility. In 2017, the salary cap is going to rise to about $110 million. Rose’s nearly $21 million also comes off the books at the end of the 2016-17 season. That should give Jackson nearly $50 million in cap space to work with next offseason.

New York would love to land Russell Westbrook next year in free agency and rumor has it that the interest is mutual. That’s really what this move is all about. It gives the Knicks a wealth of options going forward, because if Rose does not work out, he leaves after the season is over, and New York gets to take their pick at who they throw money at.

To recap, the Knicks can really only get better and have primed themselves for the future. If you don’t like that deal, you don’t understand how the NBA works.

The better finals rematch

Golden State completed one of the great comebacks in NBA history beating Oklahoma City to advance to the NBA Finals. Those finals against Cleveland began Thursday and I have to admit that I am a little disappointed.

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Steph Curry is the reigning MVP for a second straight year. (Wikimedia Commons)

I know watching Steph Curry and Klay Thompson shoot is fun and the Draymond Green against LeBron James matchup has been interesting, but there was a much better rematch I was hoping to see in the finals this year.

It wouldn’t necessarily have been between two teams as much as it would have been between two players. Think back to four years ago when James was still wearing a Miami uniform. At this time in 2012, LeBron still had not won a ring. Neither had his main adversary in that year’s finals, Kevin Durant.

Fast forward four years and Durant is still seeking that ring while LeBron is desperately trying to bring Cleveland a title. Watching those two matchup again in the finals, granted with much different supporting casts, would have been epic to see.

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James and the Cavaliers have struggled against Golden State this season, but fared well versus Oklahoma City. (Wikimedia Commons)

It was a great battle the first time around. Durant averaged over 30 points a night, while LeBron posted 28, 7 and 10 per game. It was a battle of wills that Durant lost due to having a much weaker supporting cast. He had Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka, but that was no match for Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in their prime.

Outside of LeBron and Durant matching up, there are a few other matchups I would have loved to see in a Thunder-Cavaliers series, one of them involving the aforementioned Westbrook. He is one of the best pure scorers in the league at this point. His athletic blend makes him a nightmare to guard. One of the players best-suited to slowdown Westbrook is Cleveland point guard Kyrie Irving.

We never got to see the two faceoff in the regular season, as Irving missed the first game as he continued to recover from that gruesome knee injury last year. He played just nine minutes in the second meeting. The regular season only scratched the surface of what this matchup could have been.

Kyrie Irving
Irving only played in Game 1 last year before fracturing his knee. (Wikimedia Commons)

I’m not saying for a minute that I will not be watching the finals now as a result of the Thunder not being a part of it, or that the repeat of last year’s finals won’t be interesting (especially now that Kevin Love and Irving are healthy), but I think we certainly got robbed.

I have to take what I can get though, and I might as well make a prediction. Cleveland took pretty much this same Golden State team to six games last year, despite missing two of it’s best players.

The Warriors took the first two games. I don’t think Cleveland will end up getting swept. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them snag two wins before the Warriors close it out. Repeat of last year, Golden State wins in six games and the Cavs spend another offseason wondering what went wrong.