For the 200th episode of the Woj Pod, the eponymous host of the show Adrian Wojnarowski invited Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse on to talk about his new book (and its long title), his time in the Bubble, his foundation, his trek around Montana with Phil Jackson, and his coaching career as it continues in Toronto.
Have a listen to the whole discussion here.
And for a brief summary, continue on:
- Nurse confirms right away that while he did watch some of the Western Conference playoffs, he did not view any of the East playoffs after the Raptors were eliminated. I can sympathize. Watching the Celtics and Heat play just re-confirmed how close the Raptors were to getting into the Eastern Conference Finals — and how clear their path was to another Finals appearance.
- While Nurse is a bit cagey as to what his own political beliefs are, he does sort of open up on the brief labour stoppage in the Bubble. What’s more, he (and Woj) remind listeners that was actually the Raptors and Celtics talking about sitting out first. As Nurse mentioned “There was a real possibility that that series wasn’t going to happen.”
- Woj needles Nurse a bit to give him more details on life in the Bubble. Woj figured there’d be more stories of people getting pissed off with others because everyone was living on top of everyone else. Nurse confirms he didn’t like the fraternizing between games — because of the low-level buzz of competitiveness always coursing through everything — but what else can you do? Me personally, I think there probably are more stories here, but they just weren’t reported.
- Today I Learned: Basketball legend Dr. J is involved with the Nick Nurse Foundation, which had its launch night on March 11 — the night Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. An auspicious evening, though Nurse did once again get to take the stage and jam with the Arkells. He also got in a classic dad joke here, mentioning that his foundation has got a Doctor and a Nurse involved — har, har.
- Thanks to the Raptors’ Alex McKechnie and his previous work experience, Nurse was able to connect with coaching legend Phil Jackson. As told by Nurse, he went out to Montana, met up with Jackson, and the two of them drove around Montana eating cherries and talking about basketball philosphy. It’s striking to hear the similarities between the two men — as Nurse notes, both are products of the minor league system (and truly enjoyed coaching there), both value on-ball defensive pressure as a governing philosophy, and both have an ineffable sense of where and how to apply themselves as coaches.
- Worry not, eventually Woj and Nurse get around to talking about the 2018-19 championship Raptors. This includes a delightful anecdote about Kawhi Leonard’s thoughts on passing the ball (as paraphrased by Nurse: “I ain’t passing for the ‘bleeping’ hell of it.”).
- Woj gets at what made that team special despite the differing styles and presences of Kawhi and Kyle Lowry. Nurse obviously has some thoughts on that, and speaks about his role with the team — noting that his voice is a bit of a finite resource, which he tried to save for the playoffs, e.g. he tried not to overwhelm the team with feedback until they really needed it.
- Nurse confirms that Toronto is a “fabulous place to live” and that he loves the city and organization. He seems particularly delighted to have indirectly been responsible for creating a bunch of new basketball fans in the city and the country — which is true.
- Of course, this brings up a bittersweet note from Woj: something like The Shot would just not have been the same had it happened in the Bubble. The two lament this, the idea that it’ll be some time before we see not only fans in the area, but huge crowds in places like Jurassic Park.
A bummer of a note to end on, I suppose, but it does just keep us hoping for the return of something like normalcy in these abnormal times. At the very least, we know Nurse is ready to give the Raptors and Toronto his all for the future.