Nick Nurse on Justin Champagnie's rotation minutes, Chris Boucher’s role

Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse discusses the upcoming road trip, why he’s concerned about his teams transition defence and how impressed he’s; been with Chris Boucher’s recent stretch.

Video Transcript

- Thanks for joining us, Coach. We're going to start with Doug.

Hey, Nick. How are you today, sir?

NICK NURSE: Good, Doug. How are you?

- I'm good, thanks. I guess, first off, is there anything up with Scottie and Gary and their availability for the trip or tomorrow?

NICK NURSE: Scottie practiced today, Doug. Gary did not. Both will make the trip.

- OK.

NICK NURSE: We're still up in the air yet, though.

- Yeah, no problem at all. Just wondered if they're going. This will be the first long trip since you guys went out west in November. And you've had a very heavy home schedule. How do you expect your team to react to three games in four nights to start on the road and the road in general? It's been pretty good so far for you guys.

NICK NURSE: Yeah, I think we're looking forward to it, Doug, I think for a number of reasons. But mostly-- and I think this is the most important-- is that I think we're feeling some building coming on here. And I think, again, I said it the other night, it's been some weeks now of pretty solid building and basketball and learning a lot about the team and the players and the lineups and tough games and match-ups and all kinds of stuff. So I think there's a lot of guys looking forward to getting out there and seeing what we can do in this trip.

- You spoke the other night and have in the past about, there's still a lot of stuff to clean up with you guys. You're certainly not there yet.

NICK NURSE: Yep.

- Without going into too much detail, what are those kind of things that you need to see improved?

NICK NURSE: Well, again, without going into too much detail and without going all the way back to the beginning, but it does kind of start at the beginning, I'm still a little concerned with our transition defense, Doug. I think that's got us. And it's too bad kind of because the half-court defense has had probably enough good moments in most games.

I told them the other day, I can't really remember which game it was. It was two games ago. I think it was New Orleans. We gave up 101. But we just handed them like 30 of those. So just imagine if you can cut that number down, that transition number down.

And it's just, again, some familiarity and great communication of knowing kind of what your teammate's going to do. And it takes a little bit of some reps. It's an example. You're coming back, and it's-- I don't know. Is Chris comfortable with taking the ball coming at him? Or is he more of a guy that's looking to get to his match-up? There's just little things where you get a feel for what guys normally like to do. And we just need some reps at that. So that's one thing.

And I think, again, just cleaning up and continuing to specifically define roles and get those things just polished up, I guess, a little bit would be another one, where people are, what parts of the pieces go where, and late game offense things like that.

- Great. Thanks very much.

NICK NURSE: Yep, thanks, Doug.

- Thanks, Doug. We'll go to Mike.

- Hey, Nick. How are you doing?

NICK NURSE: Good, Mike. How are you?

- Good. Thank you. I want to ask you about the second unit. I mean, you've obviously made huge strides with the starting group right now. That second unit, you're still sort of playing with guys, mostly because of injury really. But do you have a feel for what you want, like in terms of number and identity?

NICK NURSE: Well, I think we're getting there, Mike. And you already said it. It seems to me that every time we kind of get a couple of games of-- we can go back. Remember when we were bringing Dalano and Chris, boom, right there and then filtering in and coming back. And it's just--

I think we're all going to have to probably accept the fact that it's always going to be a work in progress because it just doesn't ever seem-- you can sit here and say, well, ideally, this is what I'm going to do. But it's just never ideal.

There's always one or two or keep going guys taken off that unit, into the starting lineup, getting shifted around. So you're back at of experimentation mode again and just trying to figure out what's going to happen. I would say-- I can't remember. Let's say three or four games ago, maybe five, the first time we started with Pascal at the point to start the second quarter.

And that was a total-- it was like Pascal and Chris and Precious and OG, I think, or Scottie was out there. And it was just like, OK, here we come with this big, big lineup. And they did well. They did well in the second. And they did well in the fourth. Then we went and did it the next game. They did well. And then all of a sudden, two guys are out. And that kind of ends that little experiment.

So I think there's some history there we can kind of base things off of and maybe go back to. But I think at night tonight, it's just this make sure they're ready to go in there and play, play with great energy, and play a role, even if that role is switching from night to night.

- You mentioned Champagnie the other night saying that he was working his way into that rotation. Is he-- I mean, again, not to-- I guess you can't really identify based on injuries and stuff who's going to be there from night to night. But does he feel like a constant at this point?

NICK NURSE: He's getting closer, Mike. I think, yeah, we probably-- I think in his last five games, he's probably played really well in four of them. That's a pretty good strike rate. You know me. I don't expect that. Just guys aren't going to have it every night. And four out of five is pretty good.

- All right, appreciate it. Thanks, Nick. Have a good trip.

NICK NURSE: Thank you, Mike.

- Thanks, Mike. We'll go to Steven next.

- Hey, Nick. It's good to see you.

NICK NURSE: Hey, Steven.

- Just on the topic of Justin, Pascal was mentioning this relationship the two of them have. He's kind of taken Justin under his wing. And I was wondering, with this relationship that Pascal has forged with Justin, in what ways has-- is that a demonstrable way that you can say that Pascal has grown as a leader?

NICK NURSE: Yeah. Yeah, for sure. I think, again, I talked about this the other day with Pascal. He's kind of hitting-- everybody tends to focus on the scoring and rebounding. But he's kind of hitting a lot of other points that are really, really critical, from passing to defending to rebounding to leading, to your question.

And yeah, I think that, listen, you're not going to get, with Fred and Pascal, guys that are-- they're true pros. They played 43 and 39 minutes the other night. And they're the first two guys back in the gym the next morning. They just really can show these guys a lot. And they've done a lot. And it's good to see.

- You mentioned the heavy minutes that Pascal and Fred play. And it sounds like they're the first guys in the gym, last guys out there. Has that really challenged the rest of the team to try to know-- maybe beat these two guys in there?

NICK NURSE: I don't think so. But I think that what's important is we've got a hard-working group here. There this is a group that's super-conscientious about the morning stuff, the evening stuff. This is a hard-working group.

- Great. Thanks a lot, Nick.

NICK NURSE: Thank you.

- Thanks, Steven. We'll go to Aaron.

- Hey, Nick.

NICK NURSE: Hey, Aaron.

- How unusual is Justin Champagnie and the way he's so not focused necessarily on scoring compared to other guys you've seen over your career?

NICK NURSE: I mean, I think he's got a skill and a knack. And he's playing to his strengths, Aaron. And I agree with you. I think most guys are always trying to figure out where their shots are coming and how I'm going to get used and where I can get shots out here and there. And where do I fit into the offense, et cetera? And all he does is go out there and play really hard and chase the ball, which, for us and right now, that's a great role for him.

- Does he bring anyone to mind? Can you think of anyone like that? Have you seen that before?

NICK NURSE: Well, there's some guys that kind of make their living on being know specialists in a lot of areas, whether it's just a specialist defender or a rebounder. I mean, there's notable guys in history that have done that. I'm not going to compare him to Dennis Rodman or anything. I mean, Rodman is the greatest rebounder that ever walked the planet.

- And we know you coached him.

NICK NURSE: Yep.

- Thanks, Nick.

NICK NURSE: [LAUGHS] Thanks, Aaron.

- Thanks, Aaron. We'll go to Josh.

- Nick, I thought I had a weird one for you. I was going to ask about Rodman , in that his name has come up a bunch recently. Pascal talked about him a few weeks ago with the rebounding. And Chris said he's been studying some of his clips. Obviously, you've got your connection to Dennis.

And given what he brought to the table and how he impacted winning, as a coach, that must be a pretty good guy for some of your players to be trying to emulate or study, right?

NICK NURSE: Yeah, for sure. I mean, I think that a lot of us basketball fans throughout the years probably marveled at that and then probably also wondered why there isn't other names or other guys you can think of off the top of your head that just do that. Because it seems to me--

I mean, it's hard work. It's some athleticism. It's some size. It's some anticipation. It's some IQ, all those things that Rodman brought, toughness, just the relentless pursuit of it. And I don't know. I'm glad these guys are watching him because I think it's worth your time to go back and watch this guy and how incredible he did what he did was.

- What have some of those recent conversations with Chris been like? I know you mentioned that you've been talking to him over the last few weeks. I mean, he's a guy that-- he's got a lot of talent and can do a lot of things on the floor. And he's had success as a scorer. But how important has it been for him recently to sort of lock in on some of those other things and focus, as you said, on that specific role and doing specific things?

NICK NURSE: Well, I think, again, I mean, we're kind of on this thing. His real strength is energy and rebounding and shot blocking. That's it. The scoring comes off some of that, just the cutting and put-backs and things like that. And that, really, is something you can be pretty consistent at. And for me, the only thing we've talked about a lot is, OK, you've got bumped into the starting lineup because of some COVID and injuries and all those kind of things.

And he had some big numbers. But the truth of it and the reality is you're going to have to be the spark plug off the bench. That's where we're our best. It's a role perfectly suited for you and your game and your personality. Can you impact from that role? And that's what he's been doing. And that's great to see.

Maybe the starting boosted his confidence or whatever. But he mentally handled it well, Josh, to go back and wait and wait. And he sees a big chunk of the game go by. And he's still not in there. But when we called his number, he sprints up to the scorer's table and sprints out onto the floor and starts playing hard.

- Thanks, Nick. Safe travels.

NICK NURSE: You're welcome. Thank you.

- Thanks, Josh. I do not see any more hands for your, Coach. That's it for today.

NICK NURSE: All right. Thanks a lot.

- Thanks very much.

NICK NURSE: Thanks, Phil. Thanks, everybody.

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