Toronto Raptors: Coach Nurse praises young core for stepping-up after Kawhi
Raptors head coach, Nick Nurse, in a recent interview with TSN’s Kate Beirness credited the team's success without Kawhi Leonard, to his budding core and his ability to grab opportunities made available to the team.
"Everybody's kinda taken a step forward and I think a lot of that has come about just because of opportunity," Nurse said, quoted on TSN.
He further praised his team members for working together to pull it off, saying,"I think the first two guys I saw the next day after Kawhi said he was going to the Clippers were Fred [VanVleet] and Pascal [Siakam] and I said, 'Hey, about 30 shots a game just opened up' and they both...said 'We're ready.' I think the spreading around of those shots and the improvement of Pascal and Norman [Powell], who looks so great this year, and Freddie. Those guys came back to camp as totally different guys this year and I actually like watching this team play from an offensive standpoint this year. We seem to have more options and more guys that can do it and were not kinda just trying to throw it to one guy to initiate so much."
The 53-year-old coach says that even though the season is on break; when it resumes, his team would still be focused on earning a second consecutive title. He confirms that he is aware that the remainder of the season might be cancelled and that his team is prepared to deal with that. If this happens, Nurse says the Raptors would move on to the next thing.
"I think you're gonna have to get over that if that happens to be the thing," Nurse said. "I always say you've gottakinda get over it and move on to the next thing that's presented in front of you and that will be whatever it is. I don't think any of us knows what's going to be presented to us, but...if this season doesn't resume and we, hopefully, get to start fresh next season, then that's where we're at. Let's attack it with the mentality of where our organization finds itself right now and we're the champions, man. So let's attack it as such."
It can be recalled that in 2019, barely a month after leading the Raptors to a historic first NBA title, Leonard left the Raptors and went back home to Los Angeles to play alongside Paul George for the Clippers. The Raptors were faced with an uncertain future after his exit.
However, despite Kawhi Leonard’s exit from the Toronto Raptors team, they have had quite the good season, seating at 46-18 through 64 games, with the league's third-best mark, and on top of the Atlantic Division, until the season was cut short unexpectedly no thanks to the ongoing outbreak of the novel coronavirus.
Leonard still holds the highest winning percentage in NBA history at 75.3 percent. This percentage is expected to go even higher or maybe drop before his time with the Clippers is up.