By Lori Ewing
THE CANADIAN PRESS
Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said the first thing he plans to do once the NBA all-star break begins is find the nearest chair and sit down.
The Raptors host the Washington Wizards on Wednesday before the team disperses for a much-needed few days of rest.
“It’s a good mental break,” Casey said. “More than anything else, it gives the players a chance to take a deep breath, let the bodies (recuperate), get over the nagging injuries they have that sometimes we take for granted. We look at a guy like ‘How come he’s not playing at a high level?’ Well, his body’s messed up, something’s hurt, he’s sore, he’s mentally sore.
“There’s a lot of things going on, they’re human, they’re not computers.”
The NBA doubled the days off during the all-star break, giving teams a minimum of eight days between games. It gives even the players at all-star weekend _ including Raptors guard Kyle Lowry, who was voted a starter for the Eastern Conference team _ a few days to rest. The Raptors don’t play again until Feb. 20 at Atlanta, giving them nine days off.
The time off is a double-edged sword, Casey warned. It comes at the expense of days off over the course of the season, he said. The Raptors return from the all-star break to play six games in eight nights _ four of them on the road, and five of them coming versus teams with winning records in Atlanta, Houston, New Orleans, Dallas, and Golden State.
“I think one thing it’s done is crunch up the games and if we’re not careful, it’s going to cause injuries, more fatigue on the bodies,” Casey said. “So we’ve got to find, along with the all-star break, a way to space out the games a little bit more. That way you do take the stress off the bodies and you do get a better product on the floor.”
The doubling of the days off is a one-year test by the NBA.
Casey said his solution would be to shorten the pre-season.
“It’s not my call to make but I would say that something to relieve the pressure of as many back-to-backs that are crunched in all in a row,” the coach said. “Because something is going to give, whether it’s bodies or the product on the floor. There’s nothing better than a fresh NBA body and mind going into a game.
“I like that (week off), but something else has to give, whether it’s pre-season, time between games in the pre-season, less pre-season games. . . that’s above my pay grade but that would be my recommendation.”
Coaches are always concerned heading into an all-star break that their players’ minds will already be on a beach in the Bahamas rather than on the last game before the break. The Raptors (35-17) already face a tough game against the Wizards (33-20) who are third in the East, one spot below the Raptors. Both teams have won two in a row.
“We’ve been preaching (about remaining focused before the break) now for the last two week, and hopefully they understand how Washington is going to come in here (Wednesday) night ready to take our heads off with the same attitude Brooklyn had, the same attitude Milwaukee had after we beat them,” Casey said.
Toronto beat the Wizards 103-84 on Nov. 7, and 120-116 on New Years Eve.
The Raptors beat the Milwaukee Bucks and Brooklyn Nets twice each this season before both teams exacted some revenge with victories at the Air Canada Centre last week.