NBA

Watch: Dwane Casey on the difficulty of playing against 'one of the greatest ever' in LeBron James

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Dwane Casey and the Raptors were eliminated by LeBron James again.

The Toronto Raptors are getting plenty of criticism for getting swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers again, but Dwane Casey believes playing “one of the greatest ever” in LeBron James is no easy feat.

The Toronto coach spoke highly of James after the Raptors’ season ended in Game 4 to Cleveland on Monday.

“You’re looking at probably one of the guys that’s going to go down as one of the greatest ever,” Casey said. “It’s a match-up nightmare for anybody.”

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NBA

Watch: LeBron James hails this year's rookie class as the best since 2003

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LeBron James had praise for Raptors rookie OG Anunoby.

After sweeping the Toronto Raptors in the second round of the playoffs, LeBron James was complimentary of rookie OG Anunoby, who defended him for much of the series.

James also spoke on this year’s rookie class as a whole, giving it high praise by putting it in the same sentence as his own draft class from 2003, which included Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh.

“You look at the rookie class from this year, it’s probably the best since 2003,” James said with a smile and laugh.

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Running it back may be Toronto Raptors' best approach after another disappointing end

Jay Asser 8/05/2018
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Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan have been the foundation for the Raptors.

The Toronto Raptors are stuck in a bad nightmare, with LeBron James their boogeyman.

After undergoing a promising transformation this season and heading into the playoffs with seemingly everything working in their favour, it was Groundhog Day all over again for Toronto as they met an all-too-familiar ending.

The Raptors were swept soundly in four games by James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second round of the playoffs, one year after suffering the exact same fate at the exact same point.

Toronto were also beaten in six games by Cleveland in 2016, meaning they’ve now failed three straight seasons to dethrone James.

The previous two exits undoubtedly stung for a franchise that seemingly plateaued as good, but not great. The pain of this year’s elimination, however, feels like something more.

This was supposed to be the Raptors’ time to get over the hump and vanquish their demons. While they were clearly the best team in the Eastern Conference this season, Cleveland were a weaker side than in years past. Star power, depth, home-court advantage… you name it, Toronto had it on their side.

The one thing they didn’t have and what ended up mattering more than anything was James himself.

Which is why as much as it seems like the Raptors should blow it all up instead of continuing to bang their heads against the wall, the best approach might be patience.

Toronto aren’t without their warts – their All-Star backcourt has a tendency to either go missing or revert to an archaic style in the playoffs – but this may well be a LeBron problem and not a Raptors problem.

We won’t ever find out, but who knows how Toronto would have fared if they had instead met Boston or Philadelphia – two teams that may also fall victim to the Cavaliers in the conference finals.

There’s a chance James is playing out West next season, and even though the Celtics and 76ers will continue to get better for the foreseeable future, the East will be more open with the best player on the other side of the bracket.

Even if James stays though – which seems like more of a possibility with every game Cleveland win in the playoffs – there’s something to be said about being a middle-class team. After all, only one franchise can raise a banner every year. It doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game.

That doesn’t mean the Raptors shouldn’t pivot and be more bold with their moves. But maybe that means trading one star, or firing Dwane Casey – not going nuclear and tearing it all down by pressing the detonation button.

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