Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Raptors Clean out Lockers after Yet Another Playoff Disappointment

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Raptors Clean out Lockers after Yet Another Playoff Disappointment

Article excerpt

Raptors dealing with another playoff failure

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TORONTO - Kyle Lowry called it a wasted season. DeMar DeRozan said it was the low point of his NBA career.

The Toronto Raptors headed into a off-season of uncertainty Tuesday after suffering another embarrassing playoff sweep at the hands of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

But this elimination felt far worse than the previous years. And it may have cost coach Dwane Casey his job.

"It's just a terrible feeling of when reality hits you that tomorrow you won't be preparing for work," DeRozan said. "My nine years being in the league, this is probably the toughest, most frustrating, difficult, lowest feeling I've had."

Hopes had been sky-high after the Raptors roared to a franchise-best 59 games to clinch the No. 1 Eastern Conference seed, and Casey's ability to both revamp the team's offensive style and develop his bench made the 61-year-old a front-runner for the NBA coach of the year.

James and the Cavs slashed through all of Toronto's regular-season work in seven quick days, leaving the Raptors still shell-shocked the morning after their humiliating 128-93 blowout in Game 4 of their second-round series.

"It does feel a lot different because we feel we could possibly make the NBA Finals, that was our goal," Lowry said. "For me it was championship or bust, that's what I feel, that's what I always feel, so a wasted year for me."

Neither Casey nor team president Masai Ujiri spoke to the media on Tuesday. The team said they would be available at a later date.

Casey is the most successful coach in franchise history, and the Raptors' record has improved in all but one of his seven seasons at the helm. But there's been a palpable feeling that change is afoot since the Raptors fell to 0-2 in the series.

Beyond the glaring lack of fight in Games 2 and 4, there were questionable moves such as the use of Lucas Nogueira on Monday night. The Brazilian big man, who'd barely seen the floor in the playoffs, turned the ball over and committed a foul during his less than two minutes Monday, and the Cavs closed the half during that stretch with a game-turning 12-2 run.

When asked for his thoughts on his Casey, DeRozan said he's made a habit of staying out of personnel moves.

"My job is to always come back better next year. I just do my job, and that's to come back better. . . and I never question anything else. I let upper management handle that, honestly," DeRozan said.

The four-time all-star, however, credited the coach for the success he's found.

"I've been with Casey seven years. He put the trust in me, he believed in me, he let me be a 21-year-old kid going out there, playing freely," DeRozan said. "A lot of my success, all of my success, I have to credit Casey. No matter what, I'm always going to have the utmost respect when it comes to coach Casey."

Lowry and Casey had butted heads in the past, but the point guard said "I wouldn't ever be what I've become without him as my coach.

"I always believe in him. I believe he's one of the best coaches out there. He's one of the best coaches I've had. At the end of the day, he's still my coach. That's what it is right now."

While DeRozan had trouble pinpointing where it all unravelled against Cleveland, suggesting it's unfortunate the Raptors met the Cavs so early in two consecutive seasons, Lowry said the biggest thing missing was "physical toughness. …

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