Life in the NBA Bubble is underway! The Raptors are in Orlando, they’re practicing, and they’re talking to the media. It’s almost like normal... except, you know, it’s July, the entire NBA is in Orlando, the players are sequestered, the media isn’t there and “talking to media” means a Zoom call.
Still, we can pretend it’s like normal, and as such, we can listen to what the defending NBA Champions are saying, and analyze it down to every last detail and try and extrapolate exactly what this team is gonna look like when it finally takes the court for a real game.
So: After each practice or media session, we’ll run down the most interesting things the Raptors had to say, and/or sprinkle in other interesting tidbits from around the NBA, right here in “Five thoughts on Bubble Life.” And sheesh, we’re already like three days behind! Let’s go!
1. Nick Nurse: “I’ve asked the guys to self-monitor”
Nick Nurse has gained a well-earned rep as a great Xs and Os coach, particularly on defense. But we don’t often hear about Nurse being a “players coach.” We’ve had snippets here and there; the players said that Nurse only yelled at the team one time last season, following their Game 1 loss to Orlando. But this kind of attitude — treating players like grown-ups, trusting them that they know their bodies and their limits best — just speaks to the level of trust and commitment that the entire organization has. And while it might seem laissez-faire, especially when you think about some of the younger guys, like a Chris Boucher or Terence Davis who might need more guidance, remember that Nurse isn’t afraid to call anyone out if they’re not getting their job done.
We should all be so lucky to have a boss like that!
2. Nurse: “I’d like to probably make [Marc Gasol] more of a cog in the offense”
This is interesting because many Raptors fans have been clamouring for this: For Marc Gasol to score more, to facilitate more, to have more sets run through him. But there’s also a “probably” in there! I think part of that “probably” comes from the fact that the Raptors haven’t done much of this, whether Marc has been healthy or not, and they’ve been just fine running things without him as a “cog”. But I do think the opportunity will come. The Raptors are not a great half court team and when game slows down in the playoffs, running more action through Gasol will be critical.
3. Terence Davis: “[Gasol] looks really good, he’s moving really well”
Undrafted rookie Terence Davis also had lots to say about Gasol, and, following up on Nick’s point, said he was looking forward to Gasol starting the offense more. He called Gasol an underrated passer and talked about how Marc was always looking to make the next pass, the one that leads to an easier bucket. But it was the “he’s moving really well” line that stood out to me. Gasol’s hamstring has obviously been a major issue all year, and even before that, I don’t think I’d say Marc was the smoothest operator out there on the court. If he really is as healthy and fit as he appears, and that hamstring really is full healed, I think we could be in for a real treat during the bubble.
4. Davis: “Working with [Gasol and Serge Ibaka] on pick-and-rolls”
Davis was asked what he’s learned from working with the veteran Raptors, and he talked at length about working on pick-and-roll plays with Gasol and Ibaka. “Making the plays, reading it, taking the extra dribble — it might be a split second, to read the defense and react, go to the rim or things like that,” he went on; hearing that brings a smile to my face because Davis has the potential to be a multi-threat weapon out of the pick-and-roll. He’s one of the most explosive players on the team, and he can certainly shoot the ball well, so the better he gets at making the right reads in those situations, and the more he improves his playmaking, the more effective he’ll be. We may not see it here in Orlando — Patrick McCaw might still have more of the staff’s trust — but what Davis learns and works on here should pay off next season at least.
5. Kyle Lowry: “The best thing about the league [bubble setup] is that we’ll be able to adjust”
Kyle Lowry had high praise for the league’s protocols and the bubble setup during his time yesterday; Kyle, of course, is not a doctor nor a health expert, but after seeing so many players either complain (about food, or rooms, or who they could or could not bring into the bubble) or just not really get how serious the whole enterprise is, it was refreshing to see a player — especially one as curmudgeonly as Kyle Lowry — show that he gets it, and that appreciates it. He understands the work that went into making the bubble what it is, and he understands the sacrifices they have to make to keep it safe.
The Raptors took yesterday off, but we should hear from them again today. Stay tuned for more thoughts!