Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse discusses what he learned about his team during the road trip, trade deadline rumours and bench production.
NICK NURSE: Good afternoon. Good afternoon. Go ahead.
- Nick, before you guys left, you talked about having a business-like mindset over the course of the trip. Do you feel like you guys were able to do that? And how do you feel like the approach was overall?
NICK NURSE: Yeah, it was excellent. Yeah, we did. We did a lot of work, a lot of sessions, good focus. I thought we played some pretty good basketball on top of that. So pretty happy in general with the trip.
- In what ways is this team better than when it went out on that trip?
NICK NURSE: No, it is. I think just-- I think there's a lot of things, Doug. I mean, we've talked about a lot of them-- I think defensively just being more consistent, solid, transition D, early D, shot contest, rebounding. Just little bits of it here and there showed up. I think we had a couple of games more to our liking, good fourth quarter D, a lot more shot attempts than they had-- whoever it was, a couple of those nights. It was really, really a big number.
Yeah, I mean, a lot of stuff. And I think the offense continues to produce at a pretty high rate as well-- at a rate good enough, I think. Always want a little bit more, that's for sure-- make a few more shots and get to the line a little more and stuff like that. But we can keep inching that defense forward, we're going to give ourselves a good chance here.
- Do we expect OG tomorrow night?
NICK NURSE: Nope. OG is on the court doing some work-- no contact yet or practice, progressing well. But that's where we are.
- At this time of year, does the front office ask you your overall opinion to assess the teams? I know you're always talking about that thing-- is there more of that conversation, I guess, heading into the deadline?
NICK NURSE: Yeah, I mean, I think they know exactly where we stand on everything from a coaching staff perspective. And obviously, there's more conversation as things happen that are, I think, again, things that are somewhat more real.
I think there's a lot of things that-- probably lots of things being discussed that aren't really worth taking the time to discuss. So.
- So when things got closer, there's-- yeah.
NICK NURSE: Yeah, when they're a little more serious or whatever, yeah.
- I know you're focused on the day-to-day, but does this feel like a big week for the franchise, whether something happens before Thursday or not?
NICK NURSE: Of course, I think this is always a big week for the franchise, as is, I think, draft night, as is final cuts at training camp. I think any time there's a window, whether it's large or small, to improve your team in any way, I think that that's always important for the franchise.
- It's always noisy at this time of the year, but does it feel like maybe there's a little bit more noise this year under the circumstances?
NICK NURSE: Well, maybe, but I think it's so noisy that it almost defeats the purpose. If you guys are trying to make it problems for everybody, there's so much noise that you just like-- it's ridiculous. You can't even pay attention to any of it. You know what I mean? I'm not saying it's you guys, but you know, I'm just-- in general, it's like-- it's, like, so far-fetched that you don't even have to react to it.
- This is-- you got a lot of young guys-- got a lot of young guys on this team, it might be their first [INAUDIBLE]
NICK NURSE: Yeah.
- Have you spoken to them about drowning out that noise, ignoring the distractions?
NICK NURSE: You know what? Again, I don't think there's been lots of thought or whatever for these guys to do. I don't sense that they're all sitting around talking about it 24 hours a day like you guys are.
But I just don't. I just don't see it as everybody's walking on-- you know, I just don't. It's not what it is. I think, again, it's a busy schedule, especially for our young guys, between playing 905 coming back here to practice, another game tomorrow.
We're keeping them busy and trying to keep their mind on basketball. And really, it is-- it's a day-to-day come on, man, give us a great effort today, get better. Let's keep the big picture for yourself in mind, which is learning how to be a better pro, learning how to put in a great day's effort on the court, regardless of if it's a practice day, a skill development day, or a gameday for you, either with the 905 or with us.
- Nick, based on how you guys are playing on the trip, and the last month or so, where's your level of confidence of what kind of impact you guys can have in this conference?
NICK NURSE: Well, I think the level of confidence is improving every day, right? I think we still-- I think there was a stretch there where we got in a little bit of a bad funk there for 10 or 15 games, where we weren't winning, and we weren't playing that great, and the effort was a little bit spotty here and there-- for whatever multitude of reasons that is.
I don't sense that anymore. I do sense a lot more confidence. I do feel like if you want to keep going back to look at it, we've gone toe to toe with the best teams in the league, home or away-- even during that stretch of before it started, it was buzzer beater at Philly, buzzer beater versus Brooklyn, buzzer beater at Boston. You know, like, there's some pretty good performances that didn't go our way.
And we're hoping some of that stuff evens out. And it feels like it's going to-- or is. So that gives us confidence. Yeah.
- Off-topic, but today or maybe tomorrow, LeBron's going to set a record. Did you ever think it would be broken? What does it say about a guy who's been doing what he's doing for 20 years and 10 years of trying to stop him [INAUDIBLE]
NICK NURSE: Yeah, I'm not sure I ever sat around and said that record will never be-- that record will never be broken. I can't remember that time of my life. I guess that-- geez, for as great as he's been for as long as he's been great, I guess it doesn't really surprise me that he's right here going to do it. And we certainly saw it firsthand for a number of years here.
And you know, I've said this to you before, it's very, very, very hard to game plan against that guy to figure out what you're going to do to him, and how many different things you got to get ready for in all areas of defense, and how he could continually beat them, right? And so I guess I'm not all that surprised he would be as hard of a person we've had to game plan for over a number of years, for sure.
So I guess it's not surprising that he's-- not all that surprising that he's up there. I mean, it's a huge accomplishment. I'm not trying to downplay it. But he's certainly been a great, great player.
There seems to have been a little bit of a decrease in his energy levels on the court [INAUDIBLE]
NICK NURSE: Well, I hope so a little bit. I still think that-- listen, going back to Michael's question about some confidence-- I think that-- and I never want to make this a small sample size-- but I think that in totality, if we're going to get some better performances from the Preciouses, Thads, Chris, that's going to give our bench a look of more of what it had a year ago, right?
And we just haven't had-- really had that on a consistent basis. And that's probably led to a super heavy workload for those guys as well, right? It's still-- I mean, ideally, I'd like to get those guys down down in 35 minutes or below. But we can't let-- you guys have watched the games, games have gotten away quickly or changed quickly too much.
And I feel like that is changing. I feel like even-- I thought Malachi did a great job the other night. Doesn't do a ton, gets 5 points, but he's part of the unit that goes out there and extends the lead or changes the energy of the game.
Like, I give those guys a lot of credit because I think it was two games in a row-- I mean, I'm still trying to recover from this trip but I think it was two games in a row where the starters just didn't come out of the gates, right? And, like, Chris came in right away. And I mean, those were bad starts that ended up at the end of the first quarter and you were like, oh, that was a decent quarter on the road down 1, or down a bucket, or whatever-- and it was, like, 18 to 6 or something like that at one point.
So they did a lot. Not only did they play well in the course of the game, they did a lot to jump start us, especially Chris. So that's the answer-- long answer to your question.