Watch the Tape will teach you absolutely nothing about basketball, how to watch it better, or how it’s properly played. It WILL take you on a tour of some of the finest, and most random Raptors-related (and sometimes adjacent) material on the net.
We definitely definitely do not need to re-live the Raptors-Pistons showdown from Sunday night. As we’ve written elsewhere, there were some incredibly positive things to take away from the outcome, even though the Raptors lost. But, still, yes, the Raptors did indeed lose so it’s hard to take too much solace.
The extra insult here of course is that the Raptors lost to their former long-time head coach Dwane Casey, he of the folksy adage and the too-slow playoff adjustment. I admit, I feel a twinge every time I make some joke at Casey’s expense. I liked him, and still do! I think he’s generally a very good coach, one capable of getting extreme player buy-in to maximize the talent he has on hand. It takes a special sort of bench boss to legitimize a franchise as messed up as the Raptors were back at the beginning of the decade. Casey is such a coach. He made it.
A thematic aside here: Dwane Casey, on camera, was never one to give himself away. Or as would say, he’d never “tell on himself.” When we’d ask him questions about such and such a play or so and so a decision, Casey was about as good at firing off a usable quote as he was at deflecting the load of the actual question. This is perhaps one of his finest skills — not everyone can deal with being questioned every single day of their professional lives. Like I said, a special sort of bench boss.
So for this week’s Watch the Tape, while we don’t need to re-live Raptors-Pistons, we do need to review Casey’s post-game press conference in all its petty but not petty glory.
Have a watch.
0:00-0:20: First question, right out of the gate, how ‘bout those fans, Dwane?
“I thought our fans was great. Well, our fans—some fans, I don’t know who they were, but they were great, exciting, I think we’re getting their trust,” said Casey, looking for all the world like the cat who ate the canary.
This right here is some classic work from Dwane Casey. As everyone knows, Raptors fans are often bussed into Detroit to watch Toronto’s games at Little Caesar Arena. It’s part of what makes Raptors fans awesome, and Pistons fans... uh, so-so. The joke here is: Casey knows all of this too! In fact, he said he loved it back in the day, hearing the support from Raptors fans no matter where the team was on the road (and definitely in Detroit).
In short: I can’t even be mad about being part of this nameless fan group, this bunch of hooligans in the building cheering for the other team. I wasn’t physically there, of course, but I was there in spirit. This was, and is, a classic heel turn from Casey, and if the Pistons do end up playing the Raptors in the playoffs, we can expect a lot more of it.
0:21-3:59: A “butt whooping”, a bunch of ‘but again’s, respect to each and every one of his players out there (except Thon Maker, long-time Raptor killer, about whom Casey merely trails off), and the usual batch of Casey-isms. If you’re looking for a textbook press conference on how to be a head coach in the NBA after a big game, look no further than these few minutes.
But then we get to the main event, the salt discussed here, there, and everywhere.
4:00-4:23: On beating Toronto twice in two close games, Casey had this to say:
“You know, they’re the top team in our—one of the top teams in our league. And I think match-ups are there. It’s funny, they have the s—you know, some coach that coached there before, has the same calls, the same offense, the same... a lot of the same, same players. A lot of new players now, but same offensive plays, same calls, and that may help us a little bit. But again, I think our guys, I think it’s just good match-ups.
Whoa! Casey going in with both barrels on Nick Nurse!
My favourite part about this, really, is how Casey goes back to his very knowing smirk, and clearly has a desire to spill all kinds of tea on the Raptors, their decision to fire him, and the call to replace him with his former assistant in Nurse. But then you can almost see him chasten himself, realize it’s not worth it to go bitterly all-in on the Raptors and Toronto, and he just... eases out of the whole confrontation. That “but again” is doing a yeoman’s job there — and it is indeed about match-ups.
4:24-6:25: If nothing else, this press conference reminds me why I miss Casey. Good guy, sly, smart, perceptive (even about Toronto’s “load management” scheme) and better than people know — or expect.