TORONTO -- Monday marked the fifth straight year that Toronto Raptors president and general manager Bryan Colangelo met the media to discuss a season that ended in April. While head coach Dwane Casey took questions separately beforehand, it was clear that the two have situated themselves side-by-side.
"I will tell you that anyone who was trying to drive a wedge between us failed to do so," Colangelo said. "We are fine. We get along great and if I come back there will be no question about who the coach will be. Dwane Casey will be the coach of this basketball team."
Colangelo flatly denied that he ever thought about making a coaching change earlier in the season. "Absolutely not," he said. "Put that one to bed. I'll leave it there."
"I hope it's Bryan and I back because we started this plan together," Casey said, repeating himself from the last night of the regular season. Colangelo said that his own contract status should be resolved in the next two to three weeks.
Much of what was said Monday has been said ad nauseum over the past little while. Casey talked about losing close games and Jonas Valanciunas' steep learning curve at the start of the season. In Colangelo's nine-minute opening statement, he once again explained the rationale for DeMar DeRozan's contract extension and referred to selecting Valanciunas despite outside criticism. Both pointed to the way Valanciunas and Kyle Lowry finished the season as positives and brought up the team's 30-29 record after its 4-19 start.
What follows are selected quotes from the two men who are steering this Raptors ship, at least for the time being:
- On where the team is going into next season: "I'm not guaranteeing the playoffs but [we] expect to be in the playoffs because that's the next step of progression in the plan. It's funny, you kind of laugh because you hear about how disappointing, how terrible a season we had. Well, in the plan we talked about I don't think anybody promised the playoffs. I said we'd be knocking on the door and we did."
- On Kyle Lowry: "There's a lot been made about Kyle and I hitting heads and going at each other. The one thing I was guilty of with Kyle is, and I probably hindered him a little bit, was making sure he got the ball to DeMar first and then to Jonas rolling to the basket because we have all those weapons. Kyle's strength and his gift is attacking the rim, attacking the basket and his stubbornness and his toughness is also a gift. And anytime you have that combination, again, it was never [that] we weren't talking, we weren't speaking. We talked every day about what we needed to do to win and that type of thing, so it was never a contentious dislike or anything like that. It's coaching, I call it."
- Why didn't Andrea Bargnani perform like he did in 2011-2012?: "That's an amazing question ‘cause Andrea is a talent. There's no question about that. Pulling that out of him, I've used every bit of experience that I had in the book of pulling it out ... Our offensive package was built on the similar offensive package we had in Dallas for Nowitzki. And it never got to that, I was looking for him to be the go-to guy in close games, in crunch time. It never developed this year. He was a mystery but I do know that the talent is there and I'll continue to try to pull it out of him and get it out of him and whatever it takes to get that out of him."
- On Landry Fields: "Landry for me has probably one of the highest basketball IQ's on our team. Moving without the basketball. We always sic'd him on one of the top offensive players if someone was getting out of control. His biggest thing was health. His elbow, getting it right this summer. Working with his shot, reconstructing his shot as Eddie Davis did last summer. John Townsend did a heck of a job with Eddie. I know Alex and John Townsend are going to work with him on his shot to get it back. I know if you shoot 39 percent in this league you still have it. It's like swimming, you don't forget it. It's still there. His deal is to get his shot back, reconstruct it."
- On Terrence Ross: "Learning the nuances, learning to continue to focus on every possession offensively and defensively is where the next level Terrence has to go to. A lot of that is maturity because I think he has a gift, the shooting skill. Now he has to learn when to drive it, when to pass it, when to shoot it. Defensively not taking a possession off ... His thing is consistency, maturity, getting stronger and learning to get that mental focus on every possession which if you look around the league every rookie has that issue and problem. I'm very impressed with his talent. He's a big time talent. Now we've just got to continue to push him this summer to be that complete player going into next year."
- What team would you try to emulate?: "I'll tell you who went through a similar process with similar type athletes is Indiana. If you notice, you remember, they had [Danny] Granger, they brought in [Paul] George, they had [Roy] Hibbert there, it took them a little while, a few years to get it going, get it together. They added a few pieces, it took [Lance] Stephenson a few years, he's a lot like Terrence Ross, to come in and jell together. They brought in a point guard in Hill to go in and kind of glue it all together but it took ‘em a while. It didn't happen overnight, they did a lot of it organically I think is the word. I look at Indiana as kind of the example that we should go by or can go by or are a lot like...And now look at them, they're one of the top three defensive teams in the league and very efficient offensively and play the style that I think wins in the playoffs."
- On where the team is: "I believe where we are is a much greater place, a much more developed team much further down the path then a number of people in the media seem to think. And that's not to be defensive or take offense to to what's being said, but we are pretty much exactly where I thought we would be with respect to the roster make-up. Maybe not from a wins/loss perspective but when you talk about this process, I believe three years ago year one we won 28 percent of our games. Year two it was 35 percent and this year we won 42 percent. The next step is obviously to get to the point where you exceed 50 percent and guarantee yourself a playoff spot."
- On Lowry's season: "There was a comfort level there with Jose Calderon and the coach that made it a little bit difficult for a player like Kyle to come back and find his way [after his injury]. Unfortunately too long of the season I would say, too much time passed where he was ineffective and he was ineffective because he wasn't in a position to use his skillset and his mentality. That's not a knock on the coach at all. That's absolutely a function of a player - Jose Calderon - who was a very good player and a solid player for this organization fitting in and finding his way back to a point of productivity and efficiency that warranted him to play. That doesn't make the Lowry trade a bad trade, but it made it hard to swallow for those watching from the outside. But we knew that ultimately a scenario would play out where Jose wasn't with us anymore and immediately Lowry was thrust back into a situation where he is now ready to play and he needed to get in shape, get in game shape where he was playing 36-40 minutes a game. He needed find his way with the coach, which ultimately they did."
- More on Lowry: "He's got a big summer ahead of him. He's got to work on his body physically and get right for the start of training camp. He was coming off of a surgery last year that no one really talks about. It's an intricate surgery that needs some time. It was one of the reasons he did sit out some or part of training camp. I can't say that he was ever physically right this year."
- On Valanciunas, who he credited for watching and learning and coming back better after his hand injury: "This kid is a sponge and I can't say enough about what we think of him as a bright spot for the future of the organization. All the numbers, all the analytics say he is going to be just tremendous as he ranks or compares to a number of all-star centers that have played in this league or are playing in this league."
- More on Valanciunas: "I've made the comment to coaches and training staff that we need to back off a little bit in terms of his pre-game routines. This kid puts two hours in before every game, sometimes even in back-to-back situations. He's always one of the first guys in the gym. We have to say, ‘Slow down.' We've got to hold him back from himself. We've got to protect him a little bit. You could not have a more gregarious, energetic young guy to kind of shoulder more burden next year. This is a big summer for him. But he's going to come in with a full understanding of what's expected of him. He's going to come in with a full understanding of what we're doing defensively. His offensive game is just blowing up. It's expanding every day. We're going to make sure we continue down that process."
- Asked if he'd tied Casey's hands by giving him players that don't fit his system, Colangelo said he thinks the athletic players on the roster have upside on the defensive end. "I think anybody that thinks these guys can't play together, the talent that we've assembled, you've grossly misinterpreted this team," he said. "It's not all about analytics. It's a big part of it, but it's not all about that. It's about putting talented basketball players on the court and finding a way to get the most out of them. That's what we're doing right now and that's what happened for the better part of 70 percent of the season. I'm looking at this season as more positive, and I don't think we've tied anyone's arms behind their backs in terms of where we're going."
- He reiterated that they looked into trading Bargnani before he got injured and nothing has changed since then. "Andrea is a talent," Colangelo said. "He is a talent that's undeniable, and we'll continue to try to utilize him the best we can until we announce otherwise."
- Looking toward the offseason, he said that he wanted to add more perimeter shooting regardless of what happens with Bargnani and that it would be very important to add more experience. He added that a decision has yet to be made about the backup point guard spot, while stating that John Lucas III was originally brought in as a third point guard.