Nick Nurse gives thoughts on Raptors’ replacement players

Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse addressed the media after his team’s blowout loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. He discussed what it’s like to play a game with only a handful of regular players available, what he liked from the replacement players, and Yuta Watanabe’s big game.

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Video Transcript

- Hey, Nick. How are ya, sir?

NICK NURSE: OK, Doug.

- Good.

NICK NURSE: [INAUDIBLE].

- I was just, like, wondering-- I would say, what do you get out of a game like that as it goes along? What are you looking to get out of it? And what did you get, or any could you get out of what you saw?

NICK NURSE: Well, I would say, Doug, that we haven't done anything at all so [INAUDIBLE] get a little conditioning. Dalano hasn't played for quite some time, so getting him mostly back moving and going.

I thought it was a good game for Yuta. He played-- I thought he played really well from start to finish. That's about it, just some conditioning and get ready when we get some of the reinforcements back, but make sure these guys are in shape and got their legs under them for the next one.

- And I understand that you've got to play the games because you've got to play the game. But at some point, do you wonder, what the hell are we doing out here with eight guys, and they've got seven guys in protocols, and you got 10. And the competitive balance of the game has got to be odd. And I'm just wondering if you ever wonder, why are we doing this?

NICK NURSE: Well, I mean, I don't-- I don't. Doug, it's a hard question to answer. I think that for me, I'm always trying to be part of the solutions. We got a big problem here, right?

- Yep.

NICK NURSE: Not just basketball, just we got a big problem. And like I said before the game, leaders make decisions. And you try to ride with them and be positive and go do your job.

And OK, we got-- we had to take a pretty good loss tonight. We'll bounce back. We'll be OK. We'll keep working. This group of guys will get better. We'll get some meeting time and hopefully some practice time with them and things like that. We'll be OK.

- Great. Thanks, Nick. Safe trip back, please.

NICK NURSE: Thanks, Doug.

- Thanks, Doug. Go ahead, Josh.

- Hey, Nick. Not sure Yuta's going to be taking 19 shots in very many NBA games, but this was the role that he was playing with Japan over the summer. How much do you think that experience in the Olympics sort of helped him and his comfort zone in this role tonight?

NICK NURSE: Yeah, I mean, I think he's getting better, Josh. And I think the international experience in a more elevated role certainly builds his confidence. And he played well over there. Builds confidence, I think. You know he came back this year just a more confident-looking guy, familiar surroundings.

He's really played well this year. And the only maybe little bit of-- you know, whatever-- I wouldn't even say down, just when he was injured for the while, took him a game or two to kind of get back to him to his self. And he's played really well since then.

And I think that it's not easy out there tonight to go out there and play against that team. And I thought he hung in there. He made some tough plays. He made some shots. He continued to play hard and rebound. So it was good to see.

I mean, listen, we-- every time we step on the floor, we get a chance to maybe get better or evaluate or whatever it is. And he certainly-- for me, I always say he's a big part of our rotation because he's such a utility guy, and then getting him a chance to sharpen his offensive skills because we'll need those. We'll need those from him at times too. So it's good to see that he was able to go out there and have a pretty productive game tonight.

- With the difficult circumstances in mind, is there anything you saw from any of the new guys that really stood out to you?

NICK NURSE: Well, I thought you know they each had their moments. They had some flashes out there. I think-- I thought DJ Wilson played really solidly, right? He was solid. He worked hard, played-- took only shots that were kind of there for him. And I thought he rebounded the ball well and seem to be in the right place a bit. Fought out there, did a good job.

And Tremont made some buckets. Hit a couple 3's in the first half. And Juwan and Daniel, they did OK too. They put a couple shots in. They kind of limited minutes until the game got away from us. But yeah, I mean, we'll get to know these guys a little bit and see where we can take them.

- Thanks, Nick. [INAUDIBLE].

NICK NURSE: Thanks, Josh.

- Thanks, Josh. Go ahead, Eric.

- Hey, Nick. You mentioned Dalano there at the beginning. Do you know-- was this-- he was obviously in protocols. Was this the first time he's been on a court since then at all?

NICK NURSE: No, I mean, they've been able to work out one on zero, Eric. But this is kind of the first time he's got a-- you know, it's the first time in a while for him that he's been able to run. So we were-- he played 23 minutes. We were kind of shooting for 24, 25, for him tonight, just to get his feet under him a little bit. So he'll get back in shape and get feeling, get his wind back, and get his feel back, I'm sure. But it was at least a chance for him to do that tonight.

- And it seemed like you were-- I-- sorry to ask a basketball question. It seemed like you were playing a lot of zone at the beginning of the game. I don't know if it was a 2-3 or a 2-1-2. But is that just something that a bunch of guys have all played in their lives at some point, and it's easier to do? Like, what's the reasoning for this, Nick, for that?

NICK NURSE: Yeah, I mean, listen, it was really good to us, I thought, early on, right? We didn't guard him great, man to man, right at the start. And then we jumped into it fairly early in the quarter, and we got a bunch of steals and some stops. And we had a little momentum going. We stayed in it. They had a really good shooting night from 3, obviously making 22 of them. They started heating up a little bit against us. So it was really good to us, and then it was kind of difficult on us once they kind of got a rhythm.

Usually a good-shooting NBA team's going to find some-- post some shots against it if you've got to play it for such an extended amount of time. But, yeah, it's just-- we talked about it in our walkthrough about doing it. Just again try to hang in there and change up some rhythm and things like that and did that for us for a little while, but didn't last quite long enough tonight.

- Thank you, Nick.

NICK NURSE: Well-- thanks, Eric.

- Thanks, Nick and Eric. Last question goes to Michael Grange. Go ahead, Michael.

MICHAEL GRANGE: Hey, Nick. Now that you got one of these under your belt, I guess, what steps can you kind of take to make sure that this doesn't really end up being a real setback for you guys? I mean, you were going so well. And obviously this is all outside of anyone's control, but do you just kind of just hope to get players back? Or what are you kind of thinking of to sort of keep-- stem the bleeding, I guess, would be the way to put it?

NICK NURSE: Well, I mean, listen, we got to figure out what the group is for the next game, Michael. Whatever that group is, if there's no additions, we got to get this group better. Certainly defensively, we got to figure something out where we can put up more of a stand there.

And if guys trickle back in, we'll trickle them in as we go. But if nothing really changes, Michael, whatever we got, we try to get better. And we got to fight. I mean, this is a pretty good example, I think, of how hard it is to coach defense in this league.

MICHAEL GRANGE: [CHUCKLES]

NICK NURSE: I mean, it takes some guys, and it takes some time, and it takes some real discipline-- I mean, if not, NBA guys are going to come out and score, right? And you just got to have some connectivity that I'm always talking about, and some communication, those kind of things. It's just hard to do with such a new group of guys.

But saying that, I thought the guys were-- wasn't like they weren't trying, right? They were trying. They were just a little bit-- you know, the momentum got going really strong a couple times against them. I thought they came out, fought really hard to start, and just couldn't quite put up with some momentum things. And then they got really hot. And we didn't get so hot.

And there you go, the game gets away from us. But just like I always say, Michael, we want to build a culture of playing defense and sharing the basketball. And as guys trickle back, we're going to have to strive to get back to that.

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