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Thursday, June 23, 2011

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Rapt attention: New Raptors head coach Dwane Casey (left) talks to general manager Bryan Colangelo after a news conference in Toronto on Tuesday. AP

Raptors hire Casey to beef up defense

AP

TORONTO — Dwane Casey hopes to bring a rugged, NHL-style of defense to his newest job in the NBA.

The Toronto Raptors hired Casey as their coach on Tuesday, nine days after the Dallas assistant helped the Mavericks win the championship.

Casey succeeds Jay Triano, a Canadian who became a consultant after the Raptors finished 22-60. Casey was the head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves from June 2005 to January 2007, compiling a 43-59 record.

Casey said his No. 1 goal is to give the Raptors a "defensive identity." He partially credited the Mavericks' performance against LeBron James and the Miami Heat in the NBA finals to the breaking down of hockey video.

"Because we felt we were playing too soft against Miami to start the series," he said. "And it really set the tone."

"I don't know a lot about of hockey. I know I'll learn about it. But we spliced in those guys checking players up into the window, into the boards and that type of thing and that's the way we want to play," he said. "We want to make sure people feel us when they cut through the lane. And that's a mind-set, and that's having a disposition — a bad disposition — when people come through your paint."

Poor on defense, Toronto missed the playoffs for the third straight season. The Raptors have made it past the first round only once in their 16-year existence, doing it in 2000-01.

The Raptors want to start their improvement Thursday with the fifth pick in the NBA draft.

Casey won't have much input on who the Raptors pick.

"I've learned over the years to step back from the draft because you have to hire trusted people with your scouting department and trust their knowledge," Casey said. "You can give them your input into what you need and what you want, but the bottom line has to come from the scouting department."

The 54-year-old Casey, who also was an assistant for 11 seasons in Seattle, is the eighth coach in Raptors' history. Triano stood quietly at the back of the news conference announcing Casey's hire. Casey said he intends to use Triano as a "resource" and build on what he sees as a core of young talent that includes guards DeMar DeRozan and Jerryd Bayless, center Andrea Bargnani and forward Amir Johnson.

"Defensively, I'm going to be a hands-on control freak, so to speak," he said. "Offensively, I'm going to trust and give them freedom."

Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo said he got a call from Dallas coach Rick Carlisle in the wee hours after the Mavericks won the championship.

"Rick Carlisle said, 'Bryan, I want to know what it's going to take to get Dwane that job in Toronto. It's right for him, it's right for you, it's right for the situation. You need to strongly consider it,' " Colangelo said.

"He comes with exceptional support from people in very high places," he said. "There's a lot of people that are rooting for Dwane to do well here. They think it's the right time," he said.

T-Wolves introduce Rubio

AP

Minneapolis — For two years, Minnesota Timberwolves fans have been tantalized by the myth of Ricky Rubio.

Rubio's Spanish league games were rarely on television in the Twin Cities, so they watched grainy YouTube highlights — a behind-the-back pass here, a nifty dribble there — to get their fix. The air of mystery only seemed to increase the hype.

The 20-year-old point guard held his first press conference in Minnesota on Tuesday, looking to pull back the curtain and introduce himself to the fans who have so eagerly anticipated his arrival.

"I was so comfortable over there, but Minnesota makes me feel comfortable too," Rubio said. "(The Timberwolves) supported me, they were happy about my things, my winnings, in Barcelona, and I was like, oh, they want me over there. I feel that love over there. I want to give back that love."

The Timberwolves drafted Rubio in 2009 with the fifth overall pick, but a large buyout with his Spanish team at the time coupled with Rubio's desire to stay home and work on his game kept him from immediately heading to the NBA.

President of basketball operations David Kahn, assistant GM Tony Ronzone, European scout Pete Philo and coach Kurt Rambis all chipped in to show Rubio and his family that coming to small-market Minnesota was the right move.

"Yeah, I feel like they really want me," Rubio said. "It giving me confidence to play over here, play for them. It helped me a lot."



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