Let it not be said that Nick Nurse will not go to war for his players on the Raptors. Fresh off their second defeat in a row, this time in Denver, Toronto’s head coach decided to let loose on what he felt was some poor officiating — particularly as it relates to his star player Kawhi Leonard.
Most observers figured it would cost Nurse some money, especially when you read his words below. Now we know exactly how much, since the NBA has officially levied its punishment.
Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse has been fined $15,000 by the NBA for publicly criticizing officiating on his star Kawhi Leonard.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) December 18, 2018
To understand how we got here with Nurse, let’s go back to Sunday night in Denver. The Athletic’s Eric Koreen was on the scene at the time and helpfully reported this transcription:
And to finish: “We played our butts off. We outplayed them. We outplayed them. No question.”— (((Eric Koreen))) (@ekoreen) December 17, 2018
Setting aside the subjectivity of that final tweet (which could be argued, since the Raptors didn’t outplay the Nuggets — they lost the game!), Nurse definitely has a point with respect to the amount of, uh, respect paid to Kawhi.
If you’ve watched any Raptors games this year, you’ve undoubtedly seen Leonard making plays at the rim, and taking a healthy dose of contact for his troubles. As Leonard himself has said, he’s going to keep playing his way, and trying to be as physical as he can be within the rules — even if they aren’t always going to be applied the right way when it comes to defensive contact against him.
[Cut to the Raptors Ref Truthers coming out of the wordwork]
Kawhi: "Some of my drives or coming off pick and rolls or even just going to the basket there’s a lot of hand grabs and bodying which the rules say you ain’t supposed to do this year. But I take pride in just trying to think I can play in any era so I’m just going out playing."— Mike Ganter (@Mike_Ganter) December 17, 2018
Fortunately, as Leonard confirmed today, he does indeed enjoy his coach sticking up for him, even if it costs said coach 15 grand in the process. When asked this afternoon about Nurse’s comments and support, Leonard had this to say:
Kawhi Leonard said he appreciated Nick Nurse’s going to bat for him with refs vs. Denver: ‘when your coach is seeing the same things you are feeling [on the floor] it’s great’— Michael Grange (@michaelgrange) December 18, 2018
All of which is to say: Kawhi is staying. (Though no word yet on whether Kawhi will step in and pay coach Nurse’s fine.)