Nick Nurse on rotation with several players returning

Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse discusses nervousness around playing teams with positive COVID cases and how he will manage minutes with Khem Birch, OG Anunoby and Precious Achiuwa inching closer to returning.

Video Transcript

NICK NURSE: Happy late afternoon to everybody.

Relatively late, compared to what we're used to, right?

- First off, I guess, is anybody not able to pass the protocol?

NICK NURSE: No. We were OK, today. We're still OK.

- So another day of practice for OG and Khem. What do their statuses looks like?

NICK NURSE: They look good. They look good. I think we still got them in the questionable pool here. Probably, again, we'll see how they get through today's practice and tomorrow morning. And they'll have a shoot around and see how they feel.

- OG was saying he wasn't able to do much because of the rest. How much did his conditioning-- or how much did he do conditioning?

NICK NURSE: I think, of the three-- OG, Khem, and Precious-- I thought OG and Khem looked like they were pretty good and in rhythm, somewhat, and not too affected. Precious was full of energy, flying all over the place. So we shall see.

- Coach, the significance of the COVID protocol has gotten a lot worse since the last week. How much is that going through your mind? Has that protective process been taken?

NICK NURSE: Yeah. I mean, we're doing a lot more, protocol wise. Right? We're really trying to be as proactive as possible. I don't know. We've just gone back to being almost as stringent as we can be.

I guess that's all I can say. The rest of it is, we just keep preparing as the games go on and go ahead. And it's just a little bit of being ready to play the game, no matter who's in, who's out, who's in the crowd, who's not-- all that kind of stuff. We just kind of get our mindset really lasered in on understanding that there's still a great chance to play a game.

And it may be a little different form than we thought, but it's still a good chance to play a game.

- You've always preached that in coaching-- that flexibility. Is that helping you? It's got to be difficult, when you find out a half hour before the game. But on the other hand, you don't know who's resting and who's in the protocol world. Has it felt any more unusual recently than in the time before?

NICK NURSE: I mean, I think, again, I've been through enough of that in my training, as a young coach and in some of the leagues I played in, that it doesn't affect that much, Josh, in the short term. But I would say, yeah. You're thinking a little bit about some of the stuff we've gone through with stoppage in play, and shutdowns, and bubbles, and no fans.

And you are thinking, geez. You know where it could go, like back then. Even when we all just got told to stay home when it first started, it was kind of like, well, they put a 2 week limit on it. And we'd be thinking, oh. You know what I mean? There was always the unknown.

Well, now we know what we may have to go back to, or versions of it, right? And I think that adds a little bit into your long term view. And like everybody else, I have a long term plan, and a view, and all that stuff. But you got to try to keep rolling yourself back in, to concentrate on what's right in front of you, day to day.

- So, for tomorrow, did you plan a Curry plan and a non-Curry plan?

NICK NURSE: We're doing a Curry plan, for sure. And then we have to go with that everybody's playing, right? Until you get an affirmative answer that they're not, and then you shift gears. And sometimes, like you said, that's 30 minutes before. And that's happening a lot lately, right? It's happening a lot lately, like you said, either with rest or protocol. So it's not that big a deal.

- Starting is the wrong word, but going down the roster? Has starting performance been more important?

NICK NURSE: Well, I don't know. Here's what it does, probably. When you're getting ready for some of these game plans, there is a lot of prep, and a lot of in-depth discussion going on with your coaches. It's a long pile of work. I guess that's the way to put it. There's a long pile of options.

And then you're saying to yourself, do we really need to dig in this deep right now, when we don't even know if this is an option. But no. You have to. Of course you do. You got to dig in, and get it all done, and consider. And you really don't consider all that much of the other things, again until you get some firm answer, and then you've got to move a little faster.

- So just in terms of knowing your personnel, it's not enough. Like, you gotta know 1 through 16, right?

NICK NURSE: That, definitely. And now it's 1 through 17, and it might be down to 19, now, with some teams getting exceptions. And you are digging up some things. And that's not that easy, either, because you've played the team already. You remember this guy.

And all of a sudden, you're looking at three brand new names, faces. And you can say, listen. This guy's a cutter, and he really crashes the glass. And he's going to play really hard. And your guys are like, OK. And then he does. And he cuts, and they get their chance-- their one or two or three chances.

And they really try to do their role the best they can.

[INAUDIBLE]

[LAUGHING]

Good point.

- What's the mood of--

[INAUDIBLE]

Pretty good. No, it's pretty good. I mean, I think that they put in--

I always get in the same mood as they do, a lot. So when they call me up and say, hey. You got to take-- I can't remember. Where was I? Brooklyn. And they call me up at 8:00 AM and say, you've got to come take two tests right now. And I may go, ugh. And then I go down there, and do it, and I'm OK.

You know what I mean? The players do the same. They say, hey. We're going two tests-- a test before you get in the building, and a test when you get in the building. And they sigh for 5 seconds, and then you get on with it and realize it's just got to be done. But for overall mood? Good, man.

This is a good natured group, for the most part. You guys know that we're heavy teaching. That's not that comfortable sometimes, to continually be correcting and correcting and correcting, and drilling and drilling and drilling.

But again, they maybe feel like, ugh. I've got to watch this film again? This again? And we say, yeah, until we get it right. And then they're fine. We go out there and drill it, and then they feel like they've made some improvement. And that's what we're trying to do. We feel like we've got a lot better today. We covered a bunch of major topics today.

I feel like we improved, and I think they felt that way, too. By the end, there's great spirit out there.

[INAUDIBLE]

I wouldn't say there's no nervousness. There's not a lot of talk about it. In general, when we're around together, once we circle up to start and end practice, it's all about what's on the floor. But I think to say there is no nervousness about-- was there nervousness going to Brooklyn the other night, when we knew there was an outbreak there?

Of course. I think, like anybody that's around situations where they know there's positive cases, that thought's going through your head. And again, you do everything a little bit sharper on the protocol situation.

- Is everyone available--

[INAUDIBLE]

--whether or not this is tomorrow, or next week, or whatever--

[INAUDIBLE]

--seeing what that looks like--

[INAUDIBLE]

NICK NURSE: Yeah. I'm very much looking forward to it, Josh. I think we need to see what that looks like. We need to get that ironed in. We need to iron that group in a little bit, and get things ironed out that aren't right. And I look at that group of guys, when they're all healthy, as a good team. So we need to get them back.

- Are you excited for the rotation part?

NICK NURSE: Yeah, I am. And it starts right away. It started yesterday and today, when you break down and say, OK. We're going to start running through offensive sets. And you realize, oh. You can only put five out there. And there's more than five that want to be out there, right? So you got to start moving them around and go from there.

- Not to put you into the rotation questions.

NICK NURSE: I love the rotation questions, Eric, I really do. It's good to have something to talk about.

- Nick, have you allowed yourself to think about whether or not the league--

[INAUDIBLE]

NICK NURSE: I have not. I don't see them leaning-- just my gut.

As long as they can, they're charging forward with these games, man. When you got eight guys, you're playing. That's the way I feel they're going right now. And so I haven't delved that deep into it.

- Go to online questions now. Phil?

- Thanks, Jane. We'll start with Jacob.

NICK NURSE: No. Nobody raised their hand.

- Hey, Nick. You said ironing out and ironing in. So I'm not sure if this question was already asked, because I can't hear them. But because of the two ironing in phases that were there-- at the start of the season, and then when Pascal comes back-- are there things that you can take from that that would potentially make this ironing out period a little bit easier?

NICK NURSE: Maybe. Maybe. I mean, I would hope that we could do it a little smoother. But it just didn't seem to be that way. I think, just historically, it's always been a bit of a process. I can remember one time, Kyle and Serge were out for a really long time. And they came back, and we were like, phew.

We finally got those guys back. And it was like, yeah. We got them. Whoa. It took a minute. So I think that's part of the process. And again, there's still an easing in process. Guys aren't going to be able to handle long stretches. There's conditioning, there's rhythm, there's lots of things that affect that, right?

And then it's handling the guys that were getting those big rotations. Those get shortened. Can they still produce? Can they still hang in there? Things were going like this for them, and now minutes wise, they're going the other way. There's so much going on with that stuff. Hopefully. I mean, we'll address it.

We address it, and hit it, and throw it out there on the table before. We just cross our fingers and hope it turns out. We'll address it, and talk about it, and try to get everybody to play their role the best they can, and play really hard. That usually takes care of a lot of things.

- And then, speaking of the rotation adjustments and things like that-- say for someone like Yuta, who you need to be aggressive on the offensive end. Say, even, if the minutes do get scaled back a little bit, how do you make sure that he still maintains that aggressiveness, despite maybe having a bit of a smaller role?

NICK NURSE: Yeah. I mean, I'm working towards him continuing to be that player, whether it's for two minutes, four minutes, or eight minutes. and I think, again, he just brings such a level of consistent energy and hard play, almost every time he steps out there. And so I want to use him. I'm not that worried about him.

- OK. Great. Thank you, Nick.

NICK NURSE: Thank you.

- We'll wrap up with Eric?

- I'll wrap this up with another rotation question, because I know how much you love them.

NICK NURSE: Awesome.

- What have you learned about those bench guys, or those guys who are going to have their roles changed, ideally, with guys coming back now? Sort of big picture, what have you learned about them?

NICK NURSE: Well, it's a big, long answer, when you're throwing them, because there's a lot of them to go through. Mostly, I would say that what I've learned is, there's some guys that can certainly have some moments. Those moments need to be more consistent.

To me, we need to know that you're at least going to come play with some physicality, energy, toughness, guarding, things like that. And those roles get switched. I know we all get caught up in points off the bench and all that kind of stuff.

But for me, who can we count on to come and play super hard, super physical, get in the fight, compete, understand schemes, block their man out, not turn the ball over, those kind of things? And they're all capable. It's just, who can do it most consistently that'll hang on to those roles.

- To what extent do you feel like you know the answer to that question today?

NICK NURSE: I've got a pretty good idea. Yeah.

This is when you have a chance to, probably, improve a few points a game on each side of the ball-- is when you have a choice. You have a choice of who is going to fill those roles and who isn't. When you have no choice, this is all you got left. You got to play. It's what you're doing. Right?

- Thanks, Nick.

NICK NURSE: It's been good. It's been great. It's been great to see. And we've learned a lot. And the guys-- we know them. And they've improved. Again, it's just getting them to improve more consistently. And it's not just them, either. It's everybody. More consistency of play, from 1 to 17 or 16.

OK, we're good. All right, everybody. We'll see you tomorrow.

- Yep.

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