After scoring more than 30 points in three straight games, DeMar DeRozan waits to find out if he'll join his backcourt mate Kyle Lowry in the upcoming NBA all-star game. Thanks to some stunning NBA news, some are now also speculating that Toronto Coach Dwane Casey could coach in it.
From teammates to visiting competitors, many have called Toronto's DeRozan a lock to be one of the reserve players, which will be decided by votes from all the 30 NBA head coaches and announced on Jan. 28. Now, because of the coaching change in Cleveland on Friday, some are also wondering if Casey could be called upon to coach the Eastern Conference team.
In a stunning midseason move, the Cavaliers fired head coach David Blatt despite having the best record in the Eastern Conference (30-11) following their run to last year's NBA finals. Typically, the head coaches of the teams holding the best records in the East and West coach the squads in this all-star game. Some believe the duty could now fall to the coach of the East's second-place team, Toronto.
"I have not even thought about that, I'm not even concerned about that," Casey said when asked about it Friday before Toronto earned its seventh-straight win, 100-81 over the injury-hobbled Miami Heat. "I'm only concerned about [tonight's game]. I don't mean to be trite, but that's the least of my concerns."
A Raptors representative said the NBA will discuss the coaching situation in both conferences ahead of the mid-season classic. Cavs assistant coach Tyronn Lue takes over as Cleveland's head coach, but will be just a few weeks in when the all-star game is played in Toronto.
In the West, the first-place Golden State Warriors are also undergoing change. Steve Kerr has recovered from back surgery and returned Friday as their head coach, a gig that's been that's been filled by Luke Walton this season. But Kerr can't coach in the game, because he did that job last year. An NBA rule prevents coaches from working consecutive all-star games. That might mean Gregg Popovich, head of the second-place San Antonio Spurs will coach.
The news of Blatt's firing in Cleveland caused a stir around the NBA, since his team, led by LeBron James, had played to the top spot in the East despite injuries to key players like Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert. Blatt is the first head coach since conferences began in 1970-71 to be fired with his team holding the best record in its conference. It was due to "a lack of fit with our personnel and our vision," tge Cavs said.
"Our profession is so tough, I have no idea what's going on in Cleveland and it's none of my business," Casey said. "But from a coaching standpoint, I've known David a long time. When I was fired in Minnesota, I went over and spent a week with him in Istanbul when he was coaching [Turkish pro team] Efes Pilsen and watched his practice and learned from him and tried to steal from him. Unfortunately, then he came into our conference! He's a friend. I don't know what's going on, but you hate to see a fellow coach lose his job."
The Heat played against the Raptors with an injured-depleted roster. Luol Deng (eye) and Hassan Whiteside (hip) sat, while Dwyane Wade played with shoulder problems. Former Raptor Chris Bosh – who was booed by Toronto fans yet again – had high praise for his old teammate, the hot-performing DeRozan. Bosh is projected to get his 11th all-star nod, and DeRozan his second.
"Seeing his work ethic, that was the major thing I loved about him," Bosh said after the game. "When he came into this league, he wanted to be a great basketball player. He worked every day tirelessly. Seeing him now, able to control a game. He's always gotten his shots up, but just to see his poise, to see him adding things to his game, his passing ability, post-up ability. He's everywhere on the court, doing everything and he's so fun to watch. I'm proud of him, very proud of him."
DeRozan led the Raptors with 33 points, six rebounds and four assists. It's just the second time in his career he has scored 30 points in three straight games – he last did it in February of 2014.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said earlier Friday that he will vote for DeRozan as an all-star. Wade said of DeRozan "he reminds me of me."
The Raptors are in the midst of a seven-game home-stand. They next host the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday.