Rudy Gay Press Conference

On Monday I attended the season ending media conferences for Dwane Casey and Bryan Colangelo, which you may have watched yourself live and can still watch for yourself in its entirety at raptors.com. While we can go through every little thing that the Raptors’ coach and General Manager said, I chose instead to highlight the parts of the pressers that stuck out to me.

You can find my thoughts on Casey’s media availability here.

Below, you’ll find some talking points from Colangelo’s presser and my thoughts on some of those points…

- First and foremost, the most relevant news of the day was Bryan Colangelo letting us know that a resolution with respect to his job status (there is only a team option for 2013-14 remaining on his contract) is expected in the next two to three weeks (he said that he and the board came to an agreement that they would out off the decision until after the season) and that more importantly, if he remains President and GM, then Dwane Casey will remain head coach.

My thoughts on the matter are well known by now. I think Casey deserves another chance, but I’d be able to live with a new General Manager deciding that he wants to hand pick his own coach. What I would not have been okay with is Colangelo staying on and firing Casey.

As for my thoughts on Colangelo, the architect of a team that has missed the playoffs for a half decade without cap space or a likely draft pick to show for it this year absolutely cannot be extended long term, which means the options are either send B.C. packing or simply pick up his option for next season and then make a long term decision on him during 2013-14, depending on what the franchise’s future looks like at that point.

- Colangelo started things off by stating that the team is farther along than a lot of media people seem to think they are and also admitted that while the win/loss record may not be up to par yet, the team is “pretty much” where he expected them to be at this point in terms of roster makeup.

- Colangelo said that after improving from a .268 winning percentage in 2010-11 and .348 in 2011-12 to .415 in 2012-13, the next step is to become an over .500 playoff team.

- Colangelo called Rudy Gay “the closest thing to an All-Star that this team has seen since Vince Carter and Chris Bosh himself.

At $17,888,932 next season and potentially $19,317,326 in 2014-15, he damn well better be, Bryan.

- Colangelo called DeMar DeRozan a “tremendous scorer” and added that he’s “just scratching the surface” at 23-years-old.

Good scorer? Sure. Improved player? Absolutely. But “tremendous scorer?” That’s going about a mile-and-a-half too far.

- Colangelo called Jonas Valanciunas “one of the great young prospects in the game right now” and added that “I can’t imagine any organization would be happier than we are with Jonas Valanciunas being part of this team.”

Finally, a player evaluation Colangelo and I can agree on. For my money, Valanciunas looks to be on track to become an All-Star big man in the near future and the type of true centre that can anchor a successful team on both ends of the floor.

By the way, I was killing some time on Basketball Reference’s season finder on the weekend and do you know what I came up with? Jonas Valanciunas is the first rookie under age 30 in NBA history to post a PER of 15+, a True Shooting Percentage of .600+, a Total Rebound Rate of 14+ an a Block Percentage of 4+ (the only two other guys to do it played just three games and two games, respectively, in their rookie seasons). In addition, the only other players to record those advanced statistics in a season at age 22 or younger (minimum 1000 minutes played) are Shaquille O’Neal, Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum.

The kid’s a stud.

- Some of the more intriguing comments of Colangelo’s nearly 40-minute presser were in regards to Kyle Lowry. Colangelo talked about how Lowry was ineffective for too long this season, and while Bryan made clear that the following was not an indictment of the coach, he did say that Kyle “was ineffective because he just wasn’t in a position to utilize his skill sets and his mentality.” Colangelo went on to say that between off-season surgery, his early season injuries and his minutes fluctuating between backup duties and starter’s minutes, when it comes to Lowry, “I can’t say he was ever physically right this year.”

The biggest takeaway from the Lowry talk was that it doesn’t sound like Kyle will be getting an extension before the season starts, but rather he’ll have to earn it on the court next year. I’m fine with that. Lowry showed glimpses of being a potential All-Star caliber point guard at times, but he also disappeared for sizable chunks of the season and he still hasn’t proven himself as a full-time starting point guard on a competitive team over a full season. Give him some incentive to come in and earn his long term money by proving it next season.

- Like Casey, Colangelo noted that the Raptors need to address their backup point guard situation and mentioned that they have some targets out there. Colangelo also mentioned that they still look at John Lucas III as a third guard. For the record, JL3 has a team option worth over $1.5 million for next season.

- After mentioning that the team played “better than playoff basketball” after the 4-19 start, Colangelo said that the goal now is to make the playoffs, stating “I will take that squarely on my shoulders.

If Colangelo’s team option for 2013-14 is picked up, as I expect it to be, then I think it’s pretty safe to say it’s playoffs or bust for his job after that. As for his “better than playoff basketball” line, the Raptors had the sixth-best record in the East after the Rudy Gay trade, though as I cautioned last week, putting too much stock in the final two weeks might be fool’s gold. If you ask Bryan, though, the teams the Raptors beat in that final stretch “were coming to play” despite popular belief and the Raptors “hit them in the teeth early” with aggressive play on both ends of the floor.

- When asked if he ever considered a coaching change during the 4-19 start, Colangelo’s response was “Absolutely not. Put that one to bed. I’ll leave it there.” He also mentioned how much respect the players have for Casey and said that Dwane is still “the right coach for this basketball team.”

- Colangelo says the Raptors have “marketable trade pieces” and “valuable assets.” Personally, I can’t see anyone other than Valanciunas having an eye popping value on the trade market.

- If you think that this current group of Raptors “can’t play together,” well then according to Colangelo, “you’ve grossly misinterpreted this team.” In addition, Colangelo noted that while the numbers do play a big part, “it’s not all about analytics.

What would the ghost Raptors say to that?!

- When presented with the never ending Bargnani question, Colangelo said that nothing’s really changed with the situation and that as long as Andrea remains a Raptor, the team will do the best they can to get the most out of him. However, Colangelo also brought up the “change of scenery” discussion again and noted that a number of teams were interested in Bargnani before injuries derailed any trade possibilities.

My hope is that by this time next year, Bargnani will be long gone and we’ll never have to deal with asking these same questions again.

- When discussing the likely lack of cap space that the team has over the next little while, Colangelo said that it looks like there is a two-year window where the team will have to “grow organically” and that they will have some options in the form of some of the mid-level exception, potentially the bi-annual exception, veteran minimum contracts and of course, trades.

While the part about the team being able to grow organically sounded nice, I see it more like he capped himself out with a mediocre roster and now has little choice but to watch the team grow organically, but y’know, either way…

- Colangelo also mentioned that the use of the amnesty provision might affect the team’s potential luxury tax situation, but that it likely won’t affect their actual cap situation.

If Linas Kleiza picks up his $4.6 million player option for 2013-14, then I assume this will be the summer that the amnesty comes into play.

- When it comes to the draft and the slim chance that the Raptors keep their pick by moving into the top-three, Colangelo said that the team would retain that pick “and wouldn’t be disappointed with that.” On the other hand, in yet another indication of just how weak this draft class looks, Colangelo added “but equally, we’re not disappointed to not have a pick in this draft” before saying that “it’s not a bad year to take a pass.”

- Colangelo said that it’s important to add players with a veteran presence and also mentioned that Jamaal Magloire was missed in the locker room this season while he did a “terrific” job in his role on the player development side.

If Magloire was still around in the locker room, you can bet that he wouldn’t pussyfoot around the playoff talk next year without fully guaranteeing it, because that’s what veteran leaders do.

- One of the things Colangelo says he took from the players’ exit interviews was that the guys look to Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan as the focal points of the team

- All three Raptors rookies are expected to go to Summer League in July, with Valanciunas also expected to play for the Lithuanian national team (FIBA EuroBasket 2013)  in what the team expects to be a big summer for Jonas.

- Valanciunas works so hard and puts so much extra time in the practice gym that he sometimes needs to be told to slow down just to protect him from himself

- Colangelo says that no matter what happens with Bargnani, the team will look for more perimeter shooting and “someone who can spread the floor from the four-spot.”

- Overall, Colangelo said that he’s looking at the season “as more positive,” which I think is to be expected from a rebuilding General Manager facing contract uncertainty. The main thing that stuck out to me though was Colangelo’s support for Casey.