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A Conversation With Dwane Casey

June 21, 2011, 4:40 PM

The Raptors announced Dwane Casey, most recently an assistant with the Dallas Mavericks, as their new head coach, Tuesday.

Raptors.com writer Mike Ulmer spoke to Casey and asked him about being strapped as a child, knowing Sam Bowie at the University of Kentucky, working with legendary UK coach Eddie Sutton and being turned down for jobs.

Mike Ulmer: Where did the Y go in your first name?

Dwane Casey: You'd have to ask my Mom. Rest her soul. She decided to do it differently but I never asked her why.

MU: What did your parents do?

DC: My Mom was a secretary at Fort Benjamin Harrison (a US Army Post just north of Indianapolis) for like 30 years. My father was a guard and sort of a tough guy at a boy's reformatory outside of Indianapolis. I moved to play ball in Kentucky and lived with my grandparents. My grandfather worked at a dry cleaner. My grandmother did maid service.

MU: Did you get the belt?

DC: I got the belt all the time but I don't use it on our daughter. Today is a different day. I had good strong parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles and they kept me in line.

MU: You were at Kentucky when Sam Bowie was drafted by Portland over Michael Jordan. Did you worry about what the repercussions of that could be?

DC: Not really. I was a grad assistant when Sam was a freshman. I knew he was going to be special. I didn't know he was going to be drafted number one. I wasn't surprised because if you think about it, Michael wasn't the Michael we know today. Sam was special, he was seven-foot-two and could shoot the basketball.

MU: Do you think it was hard for Sam, being drafted ahead of Michael Jordan. His NBA career didn't really take off because of injuries?

DC: Sam is a good man. He saved his money. He's a great family man and is still living in Lexington. We still stay in touch. When he was a freshman coming in and I was in grad school, I had an extra bedroom and he lived there. His girlfriend who is wife now was at Penn State. He was always homesick and always lovesick.

MU: What's the best Eddie Sutton story you have?

DC: One night we were driving, recruiting somewhere. I was with James Dickey who is now the head coach at Houston. We were on these back roads and Coach Sutton was in the back seat. All of a sudden he yelled out:"Do you know how hard it is to kill a turkey?" Absolutely out of nowhere. He was thinking about hunting. I never forget we lost a close game so he told the guys to get their shoes on and go back and practice. This was about 10:00-10:30 at night but instead of practicing we got hamburgers and pizza and guys shot free throws and we watched a video instead of practicing.

MU: How did you disguise the fact that Dirk Nowitzki is a good rebounder but not a great defender?

DC: Dirk is one of the most prideful men I ever met. We challenged him to not be the worst defender on the team. We had the zone defence and when he played on the other side of the floor, that helped him. We used him as a double team guy, that helped him, but again he did a good job of holding his own in double team situations.

MU: Your wife Brenda is in sports marketing. Does it help to have someone in the business who understands the ins and outs of the industry?

DC: It does. She knows players, knows athletes. She works with one of the best football players, Brian Urlacher of the Chicago Bears. He loves basketball, I love football. We talk about sports all the time. She understands the time and commitment it takes.

MU: You've been passed over for jobs. You were fired in Minnesota. How do you get back off the floor?

DC: I've been in this business for 34 years. You are going to experience a lot of things: rejection, you are going to get fired, I have also experienced a college and NBA championship. You have to take the good with the bad. It's a journey and through that I have learned how to be resourceful and be who I am.

MU: Do you cuss in practice?

DC: (Smiles) A little bit.



Q & A With Jim Kelly

June 15, 2011, 3:55 PM

With the NBA draft just eight days away it's time to find out what makes the Raptors number one scout tick.

Jim Kelly began working for the team as a scout in 1994. Since 2001 he has been the Raptors senior director of scouting. We sent raptors.com's Mike Ulmer to grill the taskmaster who organizes and operates the team's extensive network of prospect workouts.

Mike Ulmer: Can you shoot the ball?

Jim Kelly: Yeah, I can shoot it. Not great but a little bit.

MU: What's your best move?

JK: Jumper. Top of the key.

MU: Give me a percentage on how much these workouts count towards a player being drafted? Five percent? Fifty per cent?

JK: Maybe 10-15 per cent but often they are the last impression.

MU: Where do you sit when you scout a player?

JK: Perfect seat? Across from the bench, three rows up. You can see the interaction on the bench and what's going on close to the court.

MU: What sort of things other than what happens on the court do you watch for?

JK: How he interacts with the other players. How he reacts to the officials. What happens when he goes into and comes out of a timeout. What happens when they are losing by 20, how he reacts?

MU: Who is your all-time favorite player?

JK: Bill Bradley.

MU: There are no Bill Bradleys out there.

JK: He was a unique player with a large skill set but he played well without the ball. He was a very unselfish player who made everybody better.

MU: We see teams running a lot of isolation plays. We see three guys in Miami holding their arms in the air while fireworks go off, guys guaranteeing eight titles. If you are a Bill Bradley guy does that element of the game bother you?

JK: I don't know if it bothers me. You might reminisce to a better time where the game was a little bit different but the game is ever-evolving and I think five years from now we'll have a lot more changes. That's the uniqueness of basketball.

MU: How many guys can go to their off-hand as well as their natural side?

JK: That's a good question. Less than 50 per cent for sure.

MU: When you watch an NBA game, how many shots do you see that should not be taken?

JK: You have to factor in the shot clock because when the shot clock is running down, it's better to get a bad shot off than not get any shot off and have the other team get the ball.

MU: Who's the best player you ever scouted?

JK: LeBron was pretty impressive as a (high school) sophomore. Usually when you see them at a younger age, they wow you. LeBron did it with his maturity and his ballhanding skills. Yao (Ming) with his size and ability to do other things than dunk the ball. These are guys you see at 15 and 16 and they really stand out.

MU: Have you ever moved away from drafting a kid because you just couldn't stand his personality or moved towards drafting a kid because you liked him so much?

JK: You think about that but you try to catch yourself and you try to rule that out. You have to look at what's the best for the team. What is not appealing to you might be very appealing to someone else.

MU: Every team says they don't draft for position. Come on. IF you have a huge hole at point guard and you have two guys who are more or less equal, you are going to take the guy who plays the position you need, are you not?

JK: I always like a player who plays his position, not a player who is in between positions. Either he plays the point guard or he plays the shooting guard but sometimes it doesn't work out that way. You talk about the game changing. Centres are getting smaller and smaller. You talk about bad shots being put up. How many point guards shoot the ball whereas in the past the point guard's duty was to distribute the ball? The game is changing and you just have to live with that.

MU: Who changed the game more, George Mikan, Magic Johnson or Michael Jordan?

JK: George Mikan was a little before my time so I really can't comment on him. Magic Johnson was the first big, real big, point guard. After he came out, all of a sudden everyone started looking at six-foot-seven point guards. They don't come along very often. Michael Jordan set the mark for working not just in the regular season but in the off-season getting ready. They had their own uniqueness. In their own era, they changed the game but in their own era, just like LeBron or Dwyane, five or six years it will be someone else.

MU: What's your biggest indulgence on the road?

JK: Oatmeal and raisin cookies.



A Small Comparison For Kemba Walker

June 13, 2011, 4:23 PM

As the chair of the Kemba Walker To The Raptors Campaign I want to thank JJ Barea for his fine work in aiding Mr. Walker's candidacy.

The sight of the Dallas Mavericks point guard shredding the Miami Heat like a hacksaw through aluminum foil spoke volumes.

For the record, Mr. Walker is an honest six-foot-one. Many put Mr. Barea's actual size as something close to five-foot-eight.

The Raptors seem conflicted on who to draft and so it falls to me to urge my superiors, a catch-all phrase if there ever was one –- to select Kemba-Doodle Dandy, Kembiah, Air Kembiah, Any Kemba Yours is a Kemba Mine. He is also known by many less clever monikers.

The Raptors, like most teams early in the draft, have prodigious needs. Andrea Bargnani's deficiencies at centre are well-documented. Much if not all of this could be addressed with a move to power forward where he can use his often uncanny shooting ability at will.

The Raptors lack a true centre, and while there are a few candidates, Enes Kanter and Donatas Motiejunas come to mind, neither player is anything close to a guarantee and probably will spend most of their time in the league as power forwards.

If anything, they could add to a glut at the four where the Raptors deploy Ed Davis, Amir Johnson, Bargnani and, should he return, Reggie Evans.

And yes, the Raps bring veteran point guard Jose Calderon and Jerryd Bayless to the party. In terms of need, you can argue the Raptors are set better at guard than up front.

But there is the old truism that you draft the best player available and the player who led his team to the NCAA championship and scored 23.5 points a game is hard to beat.

The argument against our candidate is he scored too often to properly distribute the ball which is a little bit like saying Marilyn Monroe was too beautiful to cook breakfast.

The second critique concerns his size. He is an honest six-foot-one and people like their point-guards a little taller.

Which brings us back to Barea who demonstrated quite admirably the range of talents between Chris Paul (6'0"), Tony Parker (6'2"), Brandon Jennings (6'1"), Jameer Nelson (6'0").

We here at the Kemba Walker Campaign Headquarters don't claim our candidate will someday rival the spectacular Paul or enjoy a level of success to compare with Parker's three NBA titles, but our man has an ankle-breaking crossover and the ability to find his shot anywhere on the court.

Thanks in large part to Parker and Paul, the view of a point guard has shifted from a pure distributor to an athletic, potent scorer who can find his teammates while conducting countless sorties into the heart of opposing defences. JJ Barea proved the same thing in these playoffs and, it says here, so will Kemba Walker.



Making A Case For... Kemba Walker



June 7, 2011, 4:32 PM

Read Making A Case For ... Brandon Knight

The Raptors should draft Kemba Walker over Brandon Knight because Kemba Walker is cool.

How cool? If Kemba Walker nicks himself shaving, he has to wipe away the freeon.

That 's why the Raptors should take Kemba Walker with the fifth draft choice, June 23. Sadly, the Raptors have only the one pick so there will be no possibility of Brandon Knight's number 12 hanging from the rafters at Air Canada Centre.

Instead it will be Kemba Walker's 15.

No one enters the draft riding Kemba Walker's run of success. Start with the obvious, an NCAA title he orchestrated pretty-well singlehandedly.

"The situation with Connecticut called for him to be more of a scorer," the Raptors director of scouting Jim Kelly said. "He was basically the first and second option on their team."

But rather than crumble, Walker delivered 25.5 points a game.

This has led to the notion Walker wasn't comfortable distributing the ball.

"I think at one point people questioned whether I could score or not," Walker said after his workout with the Raptors. "Now they're questioning whether I can pass or not."

Ho-hum. Silly critiques do not bother Kemba Walker. It's like a mosquito bouncing off a mountain.

Kelly, for one, is convinced Walker has the vision and the physical gifts to run an offence.

"I was very impressed with his passing ability. I think he's versatile enough guard to play both (point and shooting guard) and especially in scoring the ball.

"I think he's going to have the ball in his hands most of the time and he has the capability to be a true point guard."

That sounds pretty definitive.

Let's talk numbers.

Walker scored thirty or more points 11 times during the season. He scored 20 points or more 27 times. Want awards? How about the Bob Cousy Award as the nation's top point guard? Didn't see Brandon Knight's name on that bad boy.

What's wonderful about Kemba Walker is that he has Leroy Smith Disease.

Leroy Smith beat out Michael Jordan when both where gunning for the final spot on their basketball team. When Jordan signed into hotels, he used the name Leroy Smith, just to remind him off the slight. Sort of like picking at a scab.

Kemba Walker wasn't UConn's first choice. They were recruiting a kid from Virginia named Brandon Jennings and while Jennings hesitated and ended up taking a year in Europe, Walker went to Connecticut.

Walker backed up current Villanova point guard in junior high. At Rice Secondary School in New York, he was the apprentice to former Louisville point guard. He backed up A.J. Price as soon as he reached UConn.

"I think it's actually helped me in the long run," he recently said.

Walker has earned it. He has the walk of the New York point guard. He is placid, and contemplative, as long as there isn't a basketball in the room.

One more thing. Kemba Walker has the best body control and footwork of any prospect because Kemba Walker was a dancer, a breakdancer with a New York outfit that twice performed at Harlem's legendary Apollo Theatre. The result is a player of unique grace and explosiveness who has trod the same boards as James Brown and Michael Jackson.

If the Raptors can find someone with that pedigree, by all means, they should go ahead and draft him.

More from the morning workout

Dallas Lauderdale, forward, Ohio State: The Raptors could hold workouts until doomsday and not find a jump shot funkier than the one put up by the wonderfully named Dallas Lauderdale.

Lauderdale, a six-foot-eight forward from Ohio State worked out for the Raptors on Tuesday. His shot was actually an anti-jumper as he hangs on to the ball as he levitates and releases the ball when his heels hit the ground. Lauderdale scored a meager 4.2 points per game, but has long been a fixture on the Buckeyes based on his shot-blocking abilities.

Jacob Pullen, point guard, Kansas State: Bit of discrepancy with guard Jacob Pullen. Pullen, who worked out with the Raptors on Tuesday, won the Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award as the best player under six-feet in the U.S . He is listed as six-feet on the workout information sheet.

Will Graves, forward, North Carolina: Graves played Japanese basketball after missing his senior year at Carolina because of an unspecified offence. It was his second dismissal from the team. Something of a long-shot.

Marcus Simmons, USC, forward: Simmons, a defensive specialist, covered Texas' Jordan Hamilton, Washington State's Klay Thompson. Tennessee's Scotty Hopson, UCLA's Tyler Honeycutt, Lehigh's C.J. McCollum and Kansas' Tayshaun Taylor. All those players could not reach their season average in shooting percentage and points in those games.

Curtis Kelly, Kansas State: The senior forward writes poetry and has the middle name Ezell and earned his social science degree last summer.