Raptors HC: Kawhi Is Great, But I Love DeRozan

Nick Nurse would like to coach the players on his current roster – not blow the team up to acquire Leonard from the Spurs

Reiter Than You
July 17, 2018 - 10:03 am

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It remains to be seen where Kawhi Leonard will play basketball in 2018-19, but the Toronto Raptors have reportedly emerged as a potential trade partner with the San Antonio Spurs.

Raptors head coach Nick Nurse, however, would have mixed feeling about trading for Leonard.

“Obviously he’s a great player, but I also really, really love DeMar DeRozan,” Nurse said on Reiter Than You. “I’ve been with him for five years, Kyle Lowry and Serge (Ibaka). Obviously if there’s something like that, we got to lose some guys, and my heart’s pretty set on coaching the team we got. I put in five years with these guys, and we’ve taken some huge steps. I don’t know if there’s any truth to those rumors or not, so I’m focused on coaching the guys we got right now.”

The Raptors went 59-23 and finished with the best record in the East this past season. They beat the Wizards in the first round of the playoffs but were swept by the Cavaliers in the second. Toronto lost Games 1 and 3 of that series by a combined three points and Games 2 and 4 by a combined 53.

But LeBron James, who has long been a thorn in Toronto’s side, is in the West. The Eastern Conference Finals – and potentially the NBA Finals – could be within reach for the Raptors.

“I know we are a team with lofty expectations – and rightly so,” Nurse said. “I got to embrace that. I do embrace it. I think for a first-time head coach, my other choice would be to be taking over a 25-win team and being three or four years away from making the playoffs. So hopefully we can do a lot of what we did, improve a little bit, stay healthy, play a little tougher at the end of the year, and make some forward progress.”

Nurse wants better play and leadership out of Lowry and DeRozan, both of whom are four-time All-Stars.

“With Kyle, I’ve said to him I’d like him to assume even more of a leadership role from a play-calling, running-the-offense standpoint,” Nurse said. “And I don’t think it’s any secret, either, I’ve talked to DeMar, and the first thing I talked about is him becoming more of a two-way player. His offense is phenomenal. His late-clock shot-making is great. It’s really what we need him to do in the offense throughout the course of the game when the shot clock is running down, to kind of bail out the offense when teams are playing us tough. But we’re going to focus in with DeMar on becoming more of a two-way player and having him guard his matchup a little bit more and have him provide us a little bit more on both ends. That would be the focus for those two guys.”