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On a conference call with the daily beat media, Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse made it clear that while he’d love to resume his duties sometime soon, there are far bigger things on his mind.
Nurse’s priority, for weeks now and continuing for as long as the COVID-19 pandemic goes on, is encouraging his players, staff and fans to focus on safety and best practices during all of this.
“I’ve been really adamant on our safety and health, and doing the right thing,” Nurse said. “I was trying to make those messages clear that we needed to make sure … You know, people were concerned about working out and going to the OVO (training facility in downtown Toronto) and all this stuff, and I was really, really strong in my messaging to everybody that we’re gonna close this and stay shut,” he said.
“(The focus was) lead by example. Let’s make sure we get out and if we can provide any messages, washing hands and those kind of things.”
The news came down that Utah’s Rudy Gobert had tested positive for COVID-19 the same night that Nurse hosted a charity event. That was obviously a scary time.
“It hit really close to home because it was, really, a member of the NBA family. (And), as everybody knows, we just returned from (playing in Utah against the Jazz). So I think the … immediacy of it. And the closeness of it I think made it very serious for all of us.”
Now that this has become a new normal for now, Nurse has at least been able to spend lots of time with his two young children, work on his guitar and piano chops, try to learn a new language (Portuguese) and also to pause and reflect on how glorious last season was, really, for the first time.
“It was a pretty good, from June 13, 2019 (when the Raptors won the NBA title in Oakland) on, it was a pretty fast, fast, fast lane life for a little while,” Nurse said.
“Really moving in from one thing to the next constantly. So it has enabled me to slam on the brakes and catch my breath a little bit, which is good and I don’t feel like I really needed it. You know what I mean. But now that it’s here, when you’re looking for silver linings or positives about it, you can say it’s been OK.”
Nurse said he re-watched Game 7 against Philadelphia and Kawhi Leonard’s now classic game-winner for the first time when it re-aired last week and got a kick out of that. “I didn’t really realize that Kawhi put so much arc on that shot,” Nurse said. Nurse added that he and his staff have also been going over game footage from this season “and (that) gives you some thoughts and ideas about things that you’re doing. Doing well and not doing so well,” he said.
Early April would be the regular time when the Raptors assistant coaches start prepping for potential playoff opponents and Nurse said that will pick up in the next few weeks, even though it’s still up in the air whether the season will actually resume.
“I think that if they can figure out a way to play and it’s safe and, we’re not putting people at risk and things like that, then I think we’ll play. If we can,” he said.
“But I don’t know if anybody has any feel for any of that stuff right now. I don’t know if anybody around the world is figuring out how to resume things at all and I guess we just got to wait and see. But, I mean, I think that’s everybody’s hope. We all want to get back to work, whether it’s basketball, or reporting, or writing, or restaurant, whatever. We all want to get back to work and I think when we hope and pray that there’s a time that, that it’s safe for us to do so, we will all join the world again, hopefully, in a healthy way.”
Nurse would love a chance to reconvene with this group. He’s coached all over the world for ages now, but clearly sees something special in them and wants them to get a chance to meet their potential.
“I’m not sure that I think about it in terms of an ending. What I do think about it in terms of is this: This is a really good team, and it’s a really fun team to coach, and I think about it in terms of it would be a shame if, I dunno, it’s a shame that we don’t get to be around each other and play some games and keep this thing going a little bit,” Nurse said.
“This is a really unique situation that I don’t think happens every day in this type of team. Shoot, I could coach these guys 12 months a year, just keep on going, we could keep playing all the time, they’re fun to be around, and fun to coach and they compete and they’re tough, and they figure it out, and it’s a true joy, and they are missed, there’s no doubt about it.”
By more than just their head coach.
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