Related: Watch Full Casey News Conference
Dwane Casey wants a new/old look for the 2013-2014 edition of the Toronto Raptors.
Casey’s availability at Air Canada Centre, Thursday, was prompted by media questions surrounding his future after the hiring of new Raptors GM Masai Ujiri.
Casey said he and Ujiri have been working in tandem since the new GM took over May 30 but added no coach is safe, especially in an off-season that featured the firing of celebrated coaches George Karl in Denver and Lionel Hollins in Memphis.
“I’ve never taken anything for granted,” he said. “I’ve always had a fear of failure. I think if you talk to any coach they will tell you they have a healthy fear of failure.”
That said, Casey wasn’t unnerved by the three-week gap between Ujiri’s hiring and his public commitment to the third year of his coach’s contract.
“It’s been an ongoing dialogue from the first day he got the job. He wanted to do his due diligence, talk to players and talk to me. I wasn’t feeling threatened by that. He should do that.”
The step into the future speaks to Caseys’ return for a third season and the continued development of young players, most notably prize rookie Jonas Valanciunas.
But Casey and Ujiri want to get back to the tough defence the Raptors featured two seasons ago and are making moves, both on the roster and among his coaches, to make sure they get it.
“I’m a defensive-minded coach,” Casey said. “I think defence first and we probably went too far to the right this year offensively. I want to correct that.”
The Raptors were never able to bridge a need for more offence with the rigid defensive play they delivered in 2011-2012. The Raptors jacked scoring by 7.1 points a game in 2012-2013 but backslid defensively in allowing 8.6 points per game more than the previous season. The Raptors fell from ninth to 14th in points allowed.
Casey said he and Ujiri are hunting for veterans or young players who can make the Raptors tougher to play against and said personnel changes are being made among his assistants to reflect the renewed priority of defence.
“We will be a defence-first team but what we have offensively has to fit what we have,” Casey said. “We’re going to bring such coaches in to fit that need.”
In deciding to keep Casey, Ujiri gambled that the club that went 17-16 after the acquisition of Rudy Gay was not just a freshened-up version of the team that tumbled to a 4-19 start.
Ujiri no doubt looked to the development of young players in deciding to retain Casey.. Valanciunas, in particular, took giant steps in the final days of the regular season and delivered 15.5 points and 7.2 rebounds per game over the last 10 games of the campaign. He has continued to impress in off-season workouts and will play summer ball in Las Vegas.
“We’ve got core guys who can score,” he said. “Jonas these past two weeks has shown he is going to be a dominant scorer in the paint. DeMar is a scorer. Rudy is a scorer. We have that.”
As the number one scoring option, Gay had to be stronger, Casey said.
“He’s put on 13 or 14 pounds of good weight and that should help his overall physical toughness.”