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Masai Ujiri laughs off rumours surrounding Lakers & Nick Nurse

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Masai Ujiri literally laughed at the idea of the Los Angeles Lakers poaching head coach Nick Nurse for their vacant position. Amit Mann and Katie Heindl discussed why Nurse fits so well in Toronto.

Video Transcript

AMIT MANN: Just before we get into all that kind of stuff, they both address these LA Lakers rumors in different ways. Nick Nurse a little bit more coyly, Masai Ujiri much more outwardly.

[LAUGHS]

It was hilarious.

KATIE HEINDL: I feel like Nick maybe-- I'm trying to think what the fine would be, but Nick probably couches his views in the way that he-- like he's still in season mode, so I wouldn't be surprised if he's going to be purposely vague. He also might be purposely vague because, I don't know.

AMIT MANN: OK, you don't say it.

KATIE HEINDL: Well, I'm not going to say it. Everyone can read between the lines. But I think the greatest-- obviously the choice will lie with Nick, but I do take more comfort from the way that Masai approached the question and like very outwardly joking about the question and all the other things he dreams about that seem as far off and unbelievable,

AMIT MANN: Messi, Ronaldo.

KATIE HEINDL: Unrealistic. Yeah.

AMIT MANN: Yeah, all those fun things.

KATIE HEINDL: You know, no team has contacted me, and I see all the stuff that like you guys see. I dream like the dream. Yeah.

KATIE HEINDL: I took the most comfort in that. But I always take comfort out of Masai Ujiri's end of season addresses as beginning of season addresses. It's just he's a very comforting man in terms of if you want to like a clear snapshot of where the franchise is at now and where it's headed.

Though I don't know who-- I don't remember who asked this question, but when he criticized someone, he was like, if you guys just gave me three more weeks and you didn't make me do this presser now, I'd have more answers for you. Which is not true, but I liked that he pretended it was the case.

AMIT MANN: Yeah, I think it was Eric who followed up saying, yes, I'm sure he'd be much more transparent if we did discuss this in three weeks. And Masai was like, absolutely. But obviously that will not be the case. And I'm sure Masai Ujiri is the one who decides when these happen, anyways.

MASAI UJIRI: Yeah, so they can keep dreaming. I dream too.

AMIT MANN: I wonder why they're putting their focus allegedly, reportedly on Nick Nurse of all people. Like there's a lot of coaches out there and they had some issues with Frank Vogel who was a defensive minded coach. And you could argue that based on the talent that they have on the roster, perhaps another coach would be a better fit. A Mike D'Antoni or something like that. I wonder why they're honing in on Nick Nurse, a person who, I mean, that's some developing to do when it comes to his halfcourt offensive schemes. But defensively obviously he's a savant.

KATIE HEINDL: I mean, he's a hot-- he's like a hot name. Like the NBA does this right, it goes through--

AMIT MANN: He's a Bentley. He's a Bentley right now.

KATIE HEINDL: Yeah. Like it goes through its coaching trends, like the coach buzzword names, like a lot of player buzz words, kind of like-- not buzzwords, their actual names for the buzzwords. But it's very cyclical, this is what happens. Nick has not been, to my knowledge, tied to the Lakers interest before because they were ostensibly happy with Vogel in seasons past. Nick's name has certainly been tied to other franchises, so has Masai's.

It's a testament to success for the Raptors, you know what I mean? Like this is not something that even like, I don't know, five seasons ago would have been happening. So it's not the worst kind of look to have when teams are looking to your leaders and trying to poach them.

NICK NURSE: Next year. Well, first of all, I mean, I don't know where that stuff comes from, right? And I'm focused on coaching this team. How about that?

AMIT MANN: Sure.

KATIE HEINDL: You know, and I don't think we should get that uncomfortable with that because it's actually in a roundabout way a sign of success and a sign of imitation, highest form of flattery. But that said, I can't see-- if we want to talk about how substantiated it seems, Nick would not have much luck coaching the Lakers because it's not a coach driven organization, right?

Like I think he would get pretty frustrated pretty quick. He would not have the freedom to build and develop and do the kind of crazy schemes that he does. Like now Bobby and Masai just step back and let him work. Like in that presser, Masai referenced Nick as like, I got to go back and talk to my bosses Bobby and Nick, right?

KATIE HEINDL: Like it's just, he very much has the keys to the team. And he would not in LA. Like that is just not the way that franchise works. And I don't think Nick would be-- he'd be certainly happy with like the bright lights of LA and maybe the other partnership opportunities he could get-- he could [INAUDIBLE] on a couple other stages for traveling bands and stuff like that. I'm sure he'd love that.

AMIT MANN: Man, his NN brand his NN brand would go insane.

KATIE HEINDL: Yeah. It is great for the brand of Nick, but luckily for Raptors fans, like the brand is not what leads Nick Nurse.

AMIT MANN: Yeah.

KATIE HEINDL: Like it's coaching and the coachability of his team. And after what he's built and like the way that the team bounced back this season, I think is an even greater testament to that, right? And the direction that they're heading in. Also like Masai couldn't have said it any more times, but his favorite word, winning. You don't necessarily go to LA and win right away.

AMIT MANN: I mean, they've built this culture together, this winning culture, and you need certain players to correspond with that culture. And the Raptors have all those players in-house and this has been something brewing for a little while, which is something Masai has talked about some of the players that are now no longer with the Raptors. DeRozan, Lowry, he mentioned Ibaka, Marc Gasol, all these guys who have shown the fabric, have built that fabric of winning and how you do it. And now you have this new generation of players who are continuing that along.

And so this is how Nick also coaches. These are the players that Nick wants. And anywhere else he goes, that's not going to be there necessarily. Like maybe with the Heat, that's one team that comes to mind that already has that kind of winning mentality. But there aren't too many like the Raptors in that way.

And I thought it was funny how Masai at some point, he had said that there was a case-- a few cases this year where I see Precious doing things and I'm just, like I go to Nick, man, like why is he doing this? Why is he doing that? And it was Nick Nurse the one being the levelheaded one.

Yes, that's right, Nick Nurse being levelheaded. The guy that we see jumping up and down on the sidelines and yelling at referees, he was the one saying, calm down, It's OK. He's going to continue to build, he's going to keep on getting better. He was taking on that Thad Young role. Although I guess Thad Young takes on the Nick Nurse role because he's a coach. But anyways you get what I'm saying. He was the calming voice. And I think that's an important part of this too, is that these are all-- I guess they're all in this together.

KATIE HEINDL: It's a very overlapping symbiotic group, right?

AMIT MANN: Yeah.

KATIE HEINDL: And again, like the Lakers franchise is not that, like from front office like top down, right? Like you don't even know like there's like a lot of ghosts, there's a lot of like absentee owner kind of responsibilities, you know. It's never necessarily clear that Pelinka was ever really aligned at all with Vogel.

You've got like in their exit interviews players kind of throwing each other under the bus. You have reports coming out that it was LeBron and AD who were the ones gunning for Russ, which you didn't really need a report to probably put that together. That's the way LeBron puts his teams together. But, you know, it just all goes back to what we said. Like Nick is used to working in a very cohesive cooperative atmosphere that's extremely competitive, you know, and like very tough. Like super tough.

Like before we started recording, we were talking about the Michael Grange profile of Pascal where he mentioned that like Bobby and Masai went to see Pascal work out after his surgery after COVID and the thought was, they'd be like, Oh yeah, you're improving. And they were like, you're not that good, you're not as good as we thought you--

AMIT MANN: Yeah you're not where you should be.

KATIE HEINDL: you'd be better. Yeah, you need to be better right now. So it's not as if it's like cooperative hand-holding, you know. Like Masai said as much too. He's like we can come in and be like hugging each other, but he's like at the end of the day, it's like we want to win. So again, you don't find that kind of ready pointed focus in LA.

AMIT MANN: Nick's quote yesterday when he was asked about getting back into the championship hunt, and he's like, I'm ready to get back in the hunt today. And he looked at whoever reporter like very sternly, today. I'm ready to get back into winning. So that is all you need to know. They are a three headed monster and that's why everyone is trying to poach them. That's the biggest thing.

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