Nobody around the Raptors is going to put it exactly like this, but the early theme of the coming season is ‘Dwane Casey being allowed to be Dwane Casey.’
They re-unveiled the head coach Thursday in low-key surroundings.
Casey loped out of the ACC practice gym in shorts and runners after having put early returnees Terrence Ross, Quincy Acy and Jonas Valanciunas through the ringer.
Though the announcement that Casey would return was a while coming, new GM Masai Ujiri never truly considered cutting the head coach loose in the midst of a general management clear-out.
The pair has a long relationship that stretches back informally to the time Ujiri was a volunteer scout in Orlando. They are both great friends of Amadou Fall, the NBA’s point man in Africa.
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Ujiri arrives draped in garlands, but he’s still the new guy in a new job. A man in that position needs friends he can count on. One of Casey’s standout traits is that he is kind to the little people (one suspects because he remembers being one of them). A decade ago, Ujiri was a little person in NBA terms. Now he’s a big man, and surely he has not forgotten the people who treated him with respect back when it really meant something.
Friendship is one thing. What’s more intriguing is the messaging surrounding Casey’s return and the direction going forward.
One of Ujiri’s steadiest talking points since arriving has been the necessary friction that exists between a GM and his coach.
“I’ll explain something to you — sometimes it’s made public and sometimes it’s not. There’s no GM in the NBA — I can go and put this on the record — there’s no GM in the NBA that 100 per cent agrees with a coach, and no coach that 100 per cent agrees with a GM. That’s the nature of it,” Ujiri said Wednesday. “You don’t have to see eye to eye on it.”
This has nothing to do with going forward; it has to do with papering over an unaddressed problem from the past.
The subtext that accompanies Casey now that he’s been reaffirmed in his position is his tempestuous relationship through two seasons with the man who hired him, Bryan Colangelo.