Posts tagged Raptors
Ball Don't Lie EP 54 - KD Doesn't Have a Hive

Wos of Count The Dings and The Athletic join Scott and Pierce to break down the 2019 NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Toronto Raptors. Then, Sporting News’ rankings of the current quarterbacks in the NFL, how we’re coping without Game of Thrones, and Goofy Mog of the Week!

Follow Scott on Twitter: @BarbersChairNet
Follow Pierce on Twitter: @HennyOmega
Follow Wos on Twitter: @BigWos

CHICAGO! Come out and hang with The Barber's Chair Thursday, May 30th for Game One of the NBA Finals! The Golden State Warriors will face off against the Eastern Conference Champion at 8:00 p.m. Fall through for drinks and the big game and meet Scott, Flows and Pierce. 3439 N. Sheffield

As Justin Bieber readies to drop much anticipated new music, enjoy this Barber's Chair playlist of the best hits in Bieberveli's arsenal! 
Apple Music:

Throw your diamonds up for more than a decade of heat with the new TIDAL-exclusive Roc La Familia playlist from The Barber's Chair! The greatest hits from the most prolific label in hip hop history.
Listen here:

Listen to the new bangers playlist on Spotify, Tidal, and Apple Music!
Apple Music:

Becky might no longer have two belts but you can still get your #FreeTheMan tee on the Barber's Chair Net merch shop

Ball Don't Lie - The Show Must Go On

Dante sits in for Pierce and Flows to preview the rest of the NFL playoffs, and Wos joins the show to catch us up on everything going on in the NBA.

Follow Flows on Twitter: @Flowsandolini
Follow Scott on Twitter: @Scott_C-oh yeah...that's right nvm...
Follow Pierce on Twitter: @HennyOmega
Follow Wos: @BigWos
Follow Dante: @OctobersOwnTae
Follow the Barber's Chair: @BarbersChairNet

Celebrate your division champs by grabbing one of the NEW shirts straight from The Barber's Chair merch store!

Nearly Canceled: Entourage drops January 2019 exclusively on the Barber's Chair Patreon! Become a patron of The Barber's Chair on Patreon! $5 a month will get you a thank you on Ball Don't Lie and guarantees you access to Nearly Canceled: Entourage, along with more exclusive premium content from The Barber's Chair!

Case(y) Closed
Photograph: USA TODAY Sports/Sipa USA/REX/Shutterstock

Photograph: USA TODAY Sports/Sipa USA/REX/Shutterstock

Now, depending on who you ask, you’re either shocked by the news of Dwane Casey’s firing, or not at all.

For me, someone who has not been shy to call for a head coaching change during his tenure, Toronto changing course comes to me as both surprising and not. Some of the positives with Casey during his time with the Raptors was the slow process of a sustained culture of winning, and he didn’t just use his words, the actions from the players spoke, and the teams got better as the years progressed.

Getting to the playoffs five years in a row, after the franchise as a whole had been to the postseason a grand total of five times its first 13 years of existence, that was a major boost into the culture that both Casey and president Masai Ujiri wanted to implement going forward. He challenged his players to be better game after game, and was never satisfied with wins – he wanted to keep getting better. That’s someone you’d want to play for, because the expectations he imposed on you were challenging enough that you’d want to improve, not just for yourself, but for the betterment of the team.

At times Casey was out-coached. He was slow to react to the opposition's chess moves, and looked frantic or desperate to make things happen; forcing the issue, if you will. As a coach, you want to be the most prepared person in the room. To know the tendencies of your opponent, to take advantage of opportunities given to you, those are things that take a lot of time and experience to adapt.

It also helps that you have great players in your disposal, and one particular reason why Casey ended up canned after being swept by the Cavaliers (again), is because he was working with good-but-not-great players. DeMar DeRozan & Kyle Lowry are All-Stars, absolutely. They’re not household names outside of the country of Canada, heck, they’re probably not even household names outside of the Greater Toronto Area. They both improved their games, but not in the season that matters, and that happened to be the regular season.

We’re one season removed from the “culture reset,” which a year ago Masai Ujiri famously proclaimed that the Raptors had to do; 59 wins, the 1-seed in the East, and pretty much a lock for NBA Coach of the Year was not enough for Casey to retain his position as the head of the North.

Where I stand with the move is this: the Raptors are in the worst position you can think of in terms of their team status. They’re a good team, not good enough to be great, and other teams within the conference (Celtics, Sixers, Pacers, and Bucks for examples) are loaded with a lot of young talent and have a higher ceiling. The championship window for the Raptors is closing, and the Raptors need a leader with Championship pedigree to take them over the top. Whether it’s challenging DeMar & Kyle to take their games to another level and bring everyone along with them, or making the Raptors a team that the league will actually take seriously in the months of April & May, a lot of it falls on the roster, but it does start with the coach.

Everyone will be quick to point out that LeBron James is the reason for his dismissal, but you have to cut ties with mediocrity some time. If this is a Mark Jackson-Steve Kerr situation, then that’s what happens, but if not, it’s the risk you take in order to get better. Consistency with getting to the playoffs is good, but all that effort for early exits every year isn’t ideal, and something has to give. Being the first top seed in 49 years to get swept before the Conference Finals is frustrating, and patience is always key to building a sustained successful franchise, but you’ve got to make a move that doesn’t jeopardize the roster and send the Raptors back into the Dark Ages.

avengers i dont wanna go mr stark.gif

Dwane Casey is a good coach. He influenced the locker room in many ways in order for the Raptors to ascend into a team where people had to mention in the same breath of title contenders. Even if the results didn’t pan out, the fact that the inkling of respect was evident, was a lot. It was more than what was given to the Raptors in their franchise’s history, so Casey deserves a lot of credit for his contributions.

It’s time to look ahead as to what the future holds. Whether significant roster moves are coming (*cough* Ibaka *cough*) or if the Raptors land gold with a new coach, the state of the franchise is in limbo until further notice.

Thank you for your time, Dwane Casey, we’ll take it from here.

Where that may be? Hopefully upwards.

That’s My Word & It STiXX

No need for panic: it's not a wrap for the Raptors heading into playoffs

We can all agree that the NBA season is a long one, correct? This is obviously not to excuse any lapse of quality play from good teams, but it’s certainly understandable.

That being said, teams either get hot or have a shaky finish as they stumble into the playoffs, which doesn’t necessarily mean that the momentum will carry into the post-season. Lord knows we’ve seen teams fizzle out quickly (which is why the banged up Warriors can’t really be snuffed out as title favourites).

As far as the Toronto Raptors are concerned, they’re in a position they’ve never been in before, so it’s difficult to gauge whether or not the outside world should have faith in them having a deep run and being the first non-LeBron Eastern Conference team to reach the NBA Finals since 2010. Not only does that speaks to the dominance of LeBron, but also that parity in the East sucks and we’re in dire need for some change. Warriors-Cavs part 4 would be historic for storyline purposes, but it’s like watching a Patriots-Giants Superbowl again (no thank you).

After enjoying an amazing run of winning 20 of 22 games since late January, the month of March wasn't pleasant for the Raptors, as they prepare for a daunting finish to the regular season. They’ve lost four of their last seven, including an ejection-fest against OKC, and a thriller in Cleveland on the end of a back-to-back. In both games they surrendered 132 points, uncharacteristic of a top-5 ranked defense in the Association. With having given up 110+ points to 7 of their last 8 opponents, and stagnant play against lesser teams, critics are finding it uneasy to believe the Raptors will be fresh enough to make a run in the playoffs.

But I don’t believe there's much cause for concern. The reason being three key components: the Coach, the all-Star back court, and the bench.

Getting fresh legs is important, but the chemistry has been on point with the reset of the culture in Toronto for this season. A few bad games doesn’t suddenly dissolve all of that. But one thing that Toronto teams can’t seem to overcome is the pressure of high expectations. With the exception of Toronto FC winning the MLS Cup last year, the city has seen its fair share of disappointment. Look no further than 2015 and 2016 Blue Jays, who were in prime win-now situations and reached the ALCS both years, but squandered both opportunities and have watched their window for success close on them since.

The Raptors team who went to the East Finals in 2016 did win 56 games, but there weren’t any aspirations for titles. Getting out of the first round wasn’t something they’d done since 2001. The franchise was just happy to be where they were, and overachieved against weaker teams. Let’s be real, no one but the Cavs were getting out of the East and everyone knew it.

This is the first year in franchise history that the Raptors are seriously being looked at as contenders, and the fact that some American analysts are respecting that is quite something to believe. If the Raptors don’t get to at least the Conference Finals, it’s a failed season, and there’s no way around that. Those expectations weren’t set at the beginning of the season because no one knew how the team would respond to the “culture reset” that president Masai Ujiri wanted. No one knew that the bench full of unproven role players would happen to be the best in the NBA. No one knew that DeMar DeRozan’s playmaking ability would ascend over the course of the season, and certainly, no one expected the Raptors to hold steady at the top of the East for as long as they have, with a legitimate chance to clinch it. These expectations were grown through the quality of play, and since winning is what the team and fans have been accustomed to this season, it’s way beyond being happy to be in the playoffs; it’s about changing the narrative and adding some much needed hardware.

There’s no reason to panic. As much as the team has been scrutinized for past failures, this season has turned over a new leaf and there are too many players on the team and staff in the building who are hungry enough to go after it and take what they want. It's pretty much the Finals or Bust, and that’s the right attitude for success one would want from their teams. Obviously we don’t know how far they’ll go, but the hope is that they don’t revive the miseries of old.

That’s My Word & It STiXX

Respect the Raptors' Bench Mob

A lot of a team’s success certainly relies on its starters, but it’s the supporting cast that can make or break teams when going through the rough stretch of the dog days in the NBA, and even in the thick of the playoffs. They play an integral role in helping propel a team’s chances of winning on a nightly basis. Usually there’s 1 or 2 players who come off the bench and can make a significant impact (hence the 6th Man award), but the truly great teams can go deep into their bench to not heavily rely on the success of the starters. Ideally, that’s what you want in a fully functioning team.

The Toronto Raptors have had the best bench in the NBA this season so far, and the fact that the majority of the players who contribute to this bench are 1st and 2nd year players, is very telling to not only the drafting from management (shoutout to Masai Ujiri & Bobby Webster), but also to coaching. And quite frankly, you need some luck too, because you can have all the talent in the world, and it won’t translate on the court to get you the results you’re looking for.

Fred Van Vleet, Jakob Poetl, Delon Wright, CJ Miles, Norman Powell and Pascal Siakam are the key cogs that churn the 2nd unit for the Raptors. Including the starting 5 of Lowry, DeRozan, Valaciunas, Ibaka, and OG Anunoby, 11 players are averaging at least 6 points per game, which I’ve read has never been done before.

When Masai called for a “culture reset” after getting swept by the Cavaliers in 2017, I didn’t anticipate that it would have resulted in them having the depth that they do at bench. It’s hilarious to think of their depth, when in very recent memory, they had the ‘6 Man’ of the year with Lou Williams (which he has lived up to in his post-Toronto career – currently with the Clippers). Unfortunately, they were swept by the Wizards. The bench was decent, but not enough to get the Raptors to the next level.

What’s currently at hand is a unit that is not only young, but also mature enough to grasp the challenge of getting to that next level. When Lowry is down, you have two PGs who can get you 20 (FVV & Delon). When you need a shooter, CJ Miles can give you 3-4 threes a night (that’s not even an exaggeration either – the man can shoot). Jakob Poetl has proven nightly that not only is he a great rim protector, but the man’s offensive production is that which Raptors fans have been asking JV to be for years. I mean, JV has a 3-point shot now, and is noticeably quicker on his feet, so we’ll take that.

The biggest challenge that always proved to be the Raptors downfall, was the amount of minutes Lowry & DeRozan spent on a nightly basis. By the time the playoffs came around, they were groggy, consistently inconsistent, and visibly tired. It was a lot on their bodies, and they weren’t fresh. They’ve always had to carry the team on those latter stretches, and would run straight to the ground come the first week of May.

This year, they haven’t had that problem, but mainly because the team is so good and has been dominating teams so often, that they usually don’t play whole 4th quarters. That’s a testament as well to great bench play, because Dwane Casey has found significant footing with his approach to controlling his game. At times, he’ll pull the starters so the 2nd unit can give the team a jolt. The chemistry of the bench is infectious, and the guys enjoy playing with each other. They’re part of the reason why the Raptors are on pace to break their season-high wins record again, and why the possibility of basketball in June is actually a conversation (right now). The assist rate for the Raptors is the highest it’s ever been, because of years of watching ISO-ball-run rampant. It’s the method to their success that will only get better with time.

The significance of having a D-League team is also at play because the nucleus of the bench spent significant time there (and won the D-League championship). When you look at the Spurs, which is an organization that has set the bar for overall team success for the past 20 years, they pride themselves on developing their players into becoming key contributors on the next level. With that much experience and playing time, it only adds to a player’s confidence, and it translates when it comes to in-game action.

The Raptors 905 should be respected for the way in which they’ve been able to sculpt their players into becoming consistent performers when it matters. ‘Built not Bought’ is a phrase that rejects the notion that you have to buy your way to success, and through great drafting and coaching, that’s possible.

The Golden State Warriors are another model you can look at, given that they produced 3 all-stars through their draft and have had success with pivotal role players.

The end of season result is still to remain, but this Raptors team, with their upgraded and finely tuned bench, can give hope to the team and the fans of the team of future success, if not this year, then definitely sooner rather than later.

That’s My Word & It STiXX