Kirk's Note: This, too, was written prior to the injury to Lowry. Read on!
I'm unreasonably excited about this Dallas-Toronto game Wednesday night. And not just because I selected Kyle Lowry in fantasy hoops and it's paying big dividends (though it is). The Raptors hired Dwane Casey away from Dallas after the title run and he's coaching an exciting team in the most competitive division in basketball.
This week I exchanged emails with Raptors HQ writer Scott Campsall about his team and ours. I really recommend you check out their work at Raptors HQ. Get to know their team a little better since Dallas only plays the Raptors once more December 14th.
I also answered some questions for Scott here!
1. Who's in the starting line up? Any injuries to be aware of?
Early on, the team has been pretty fortunate in terms of injuries. Everybody is healthy, although Linas Klieza is away from the team tending to a family matter.
2. Before last season former Mavs assistant Dwane Casey became the Raps head coach. How has he panned out so far?
Dwane Casey may be the single most important hire this team has ever made. Last season Casey completely revamped the team's defense, taking one of the league's worst defensive teams (26th in the league in defensive scoring) and transforming them into one of the best league's highest ranked defensive teams (9th in the league in defensive scoring).
So far this season, the defense hasn't been quite as good as it was last season, but there is no doubt that Dwane Casey has left his stamp on this team. Bryan Colangelo made the right decision in hiring Casey to succeed Jay Triano.
3. The Raptors had an interesting off season; who is your favorite new addition, Kyle Lowry, Jonas Valanciunas, Terrance Ross, Quincy Acy or someone else? I'm partial to Acy for Baylor reasons but all of your new guys are really talented players.
I like where you're going with the Baylor love, and Quincy Acy is definitely a player that I am excited is playing for the Raptors, but based on what we have seen so far I would have to say that I am most excited about Kyle Lowry.
In his first three games, Lowry has put up insane numbers - 24.7 PPG, 7 APG and 7RPG - and has really taken charge of the club on both ends of the floor. I wrote this in a season preview we did for the site, but I truly believe that this team will only go as far as Kyle Lowry will take them.
4. DeMar DeRozan's recent contract elicited opinions of all ranges. What do the Raptor faithful feel about him as a player and the contract?
This contract has not been well received by most people. DeMar is good a guy and he works hard, but up until the point in which the extension was announced, he had done little to prove that he was worth the 4-year 40 million dollar deal.
Having said that, he is still young at just 23 years of age and has had two unbelievable games after the contract was announced. If he keeps producing at this level, I am sure he will change more than a few people's minds about that deal.
5. What are the goals for the Raptors this year?
Well, the biggest goal - and for the first time in a few years it is a realistic one - is to make the playoffs. With the talent they currently have on the roster, and the uncertainty of teams like Atlanta and Philadelphia, it seems as though the Raptors have a legitimate shot at a postseason birth. That, anyway, would be the ultimate goal for the season.
Otherwise, player development will be another importance facet of this season. Both Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross are young players that figure into this team's long term plans. This season then, will be huge for both of those guys in terms of getting acclimated to the style of the play in the NBA and the style that Dwane Casey wants to play on both ends of the floor, as well as building a foundation that will allow them to be successful NBA player in subsequent seasons.