After Kawhi Leonard spurned the Toronto Raptors and joined the Los Angeles Clippers in free agency, it would be reasonable to expect those around the team to be bitter.
You won’t find Raptors head coach Nick Nurse in that camp, though. Speaking to reporters at NBA Summer League in Las Vegas Saturday, Nurse took the high road and thanked Leonard for helping deliver a championship to Toronto, and touching many lives along the way.
"I think you can't blame a guy for wanting to go home," Nurse said. "That's what he texted me today. 'I'm going home.' And I just said, 'You've changed a lot of lives, man, by what you've accomplished in Toronto. Mine especially.' And thanked him for what he did, and we'll look to the future, and we'll look to [win a title] again."
Now Nurse’s task is to figure out how to get the Raptors back into contention for the Larry OB without the best player in franchise history. The 51-year-old expects some of the team’s holdovers to rise to the occasion in Leonard’s absence.
“We certainly are going to relish this championship for a long time. And we're going to stop celebrating it pretty soon. Not quite yet, but then we'll get back to work,” Nurse said. “I mean we got a tremendous challenge ahead of us, but I always say that the challenge is our fuel and the tank is certainly full.
“So we got a chance for some guys to expand their roles maybe that wouldn't have had expanded roles in the situation, and I think we got some guys capable of doing that. So I look forward to the challenge, and let's go get after it."
As for when the Raptors go toe-to-toe with Leonard’s Clippers in the coming years? Nurse echoed guard Fred VanVleet’s earlier sentiments.
“Now we got to go kick his ass."
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