The Toronto Raptors have more returning players than any other team in the NBA and at training camp in Victoria, BC, Nick Nurse has a 20-man squad at full health to work with.
NICK NURSE: Playing hard is still right at the top of the list, priority-wise. And you just start reviewing, and building foundational stuff. We've got most of the team back, so you can move pretty fast this year with that stuff.
But there's still a good amount of teaching going on for the guys that haven't been here, just again, so we can all get on the same page as quickly as possible. But super energetic morning. Like, they were raring to go. And they were really playing hard today, man. Really, really looked good out there.
- You always talk about trying to get better yourself every offseason, and keep on learning. With the stuff that you do come up with to add or supplement, how long in the process do you wait until you start putting that stuff in?
NICK NURSE: No, it's in already. Like, we're making three or four pretty, I would say-- well, three or four additions, or changes, or adjustments to some things that we did last year. A couple of them, we've never done before. A couple of them are probably in the experimental phase. But I liked what I've seen.
It's not like we just wait till now to do it, right? We got a lot of sessions in the offseason, lots of meetings and things like that where-- Summer League, where we can try some things. So we're into it. There's-- be some noticeable things we're trying to emphasize, and some things we're changing.
- How valuable are [INAUDIBLE] those weeks where you're together, [INAUDIBLE] coaching weeks, or when you guys are training in the facility here-- not everyone's there, but again, not official coaching weeks?
NICK NURSE: Yeah, I mean, listen, most of those are for player development, right? Those guys are trying to get better at their own individual games. I've always said that when we can get our guys to get in a group, I think it helps. And we try to do as much player development in a group setting as we can, if we've got a group available.
And the one thing that you guys asked me yesterday-- and again, is that our veteran guys did a good job of setting the tone and getting the groups together this summer, right? And that's how it has to be, right? I mean, we can't require anybody to be there.
But it always helps if your buddies are going. And we said it might be a good idea to be there. So that probably, Michael, is what it does mostly, is it gets them in some rhythm both sides of the ball.
- Depth, at times last year, bench play was an issue. And obviously, [INAUDIBLE] going to be here. But Thad coming in, and Chris finding his niche, sort of starting to trend in the right direction, do you feel more comfortable with what you have from a depth standpoint this year, adding Otto as well?
NICK NURSE: Yeah, for sure. I mean, again, I think that the addition of Otto is a big one. He's a multifaceted player, right? Multi-positional-type guy, like we like, right? He's legit 6' 8", and he can shoot the ball. So there's a-- and he can play, right?
I think I like the looks of Juancho today, as well. There's another guy that's-- I'm not sure how tall he is. 6' 10", right, that can shoot the ball as well, and is kind of, again, a wing type player. So that already gives you a couple of guys, right?
And then you add Christian, too. So there's three guys that I think-- one for sure we know that's produced in this league in Otto, and two guys that we think hopefully can as we go, or fit in our system. It's up to kind of us to figure out how to use them.
And then, you know, we talked about some other guys that are there knocking on the door. I mean, Dalano was as good as anybody out there on the floor today, right? He was as good as anybody there was in practice today. So there's some other guys as well.
So yeah, I feel better, to answer your question about the depth at this point. Really nice to come to practice with a healthy 20, right? I mean, it is-- I mean, a healthy 20 guys hit the floor today. And that's good. It's where you want to be at this point of the year.
- A lot of the guys, towards the end of last year, spoke really highly of Thad's presence--
NICK NURSE: Yeah.
- --not having that veteran guy in the room for most of last year. Now, you've got a couple of them with Otto coming in. How much does that make a difference, having those guys that have had that experience?
NICK NURSE: Yeah, I mean, I think the difference-- first of all, it's always super helpful, Josh, right? Those guys are-- their just experience, their wisdom, all the stuff that they can do, their composure, the just advice, all the things that they can do because of their experience. I say that Thad-- it took us all a while, as it does with any new player, and him, to get settled in.
And he's settled in now. Like, to me, he's almost an addition to this year as well, right? Even though-- but we know who he is and what he can be. And we like him a lot. And he likes us. And all that stuff is important.
So it's almost like an addition, I think. He again, is almost like having another new guy. Because he's totally, like, in a different position than he was with us a year ago, starting out now, right?
And then obviously, Otto, again, just came off an unbelievable year. So I think it's needed, was needed for our roster. And it should be helpful, yeah.
- Now that-- you addressed size. Koloko brings a lot of it. He's obviously praised Fred throughout the summer. How do you see him in the picture this season? And do you see him actually establishing himself throughout a whole year in the NBA?
NICK NURSE: Yeah, I mean, listen, I like a lot of things about him. And the first thing I like about him-- and you guys have heard me say this before, but he's got a pretty big engine, or gas tank, or whatever, right? And that means he's able to go to work on a daily basis for a extended period of time, or two-a-days, or sometimes even three times, he's in the gym working on his game.
And you don't see any letup in his facial expression, his body language, or his energy that he's doing. So that right there is a huge one for me. Because that means he's going to get better, right? If he can in the gym every single day and have that motor running like that, he's going to get better, right? That's the first thing.
Second thing is, he's-- kind of plays within himself. He blocks shots, he sets screens, he rolls. Doesn't make many mistakes. Rebounds it pretty good. And again, I think he fits our roster and our team positionally.
What do I think he can do? I don't know yet, right? He's a rookie. We'll see. I'm sure-- well, I'm not sure, but I would say that he probably will have some games where we say, wow, that guy's really going to help us.
And then he'll probably have some games where we're, like, scratching our heads, wondering what happened, right, as a rookie does in this tough, tough league that we play in. He'll have his ups and downs.
But we've been there before. We'll kind of ride the waves with him. But first impressions, now that they're three or four months old or whatever, have been very good for him.
- Yeah. Nick, you talk about depth, and you look at on the development side, is it time for some of these younger guys to kind of make a bit of a push? And you look at Dalano's had two Summer Leagues and a season. Justin's had two Summer Leagues and a season.
- Malachi, obviously. Is it time for these guys to kind of--
NICK NURSE: Well--
- --make a claim?
NICK NURSE: I mean, it could be, Michael. I think that I would say that it's not easy. When you mentioned those three guys, and then you look at the number of guys that are in front of them, you've got a list of probably 10, 11, 12, whatever it is. But again, I think we all know that, like I said yesterday, that the waves of five shift quickly when a couple of guys go out due to injury, right? That changes all the shifts.
And what I'm hoping is all the shifts can-- that the whatever, six through 10 guys are capable enough to replace the starters, and then those other guys are capable, you know, when we need them. And we're going to need them. And that, to me, is real depth.
And I think it's-- it's modern depth, right? There just seems to be a lot more guys that need to hit the floor and produce in a lot more situations than in the olden days, right? I don't know.
So I think depth isn't just getting to eight or nine. It's getting to-- you've got to be 13, 14 strong. And that's where those guys need to make sure they're ready. Because they will get their chance, right?
- On that point, Fred yesterday was pretty honest, saying he pushed-- or he said he stopped listening to his body down the stretch last year. And he said, yeah, you're going to play him few minutes. How-- you know him. You know he doesn't like to sit. Do you feel that the coaching staff needs to just say, hey, Fred, cool it a bit more? Because, like, he'll start fighting you no matter what he says now?
NICK NURSE: Yeah, I mean, I think that we've all probably been through this a lot. It's similar to things we've talked about with Kyle in the past. And it's not easy, right, when you got a super competitive guy who's playing great, and he wants to play, to rest him-- just say, oh, sorry, it's your rest time. We don't care what's happening on the floor right now, it's your rest time. We don't-- it's hard to do, right?
But I think that, again, I think we learned a lot about how we can shift our team around without him in there. I think that we're going to need to be able to do that. And I would hope that-- and the hard part about it, too-- I would hope we can get it done, Eric. I think the hard part about it, too, is when we all sit down in chairs in an office, it seems easy, you know?
Like, talking to you guys, you guys say, gee, why can't you do it? Well, it's not the same as when the ball is up, and you're in a tough game, and it's a 1-point game with three minutes to go, and you're saying, oh, jeez, he's at 38 minutes. You know that if we don't take him out now, he's going to go to 41.
And we're on the road, and it's a 1-point game in Miami. That's kind of the real life that's different than all of us standing here without the heat of the battle, or sitting in our offices without the heat of the battle. But the point's been brought to my attention.
- Nick, you mentioned yesterday that you-- Nick, you were talking a lot about the point guard position specifically.
NICK NURSE: Yeah.
- Would it help getting him off the ball sometimes a little--
NICK NURSE: He's going to play off the ball a lot. He's going to play off the ball a lot. I think, again, that's where we've seen, again, the shift of Scottie, Pascal, even OG, probably, bringing it up the floor.
I love that. You guys know I love it. Because I think that gets those guys in not necessarily open floor situations, but defense on the move situations. Then you got Freddy and Gary, some of those guys on the perimeter, ready to shoot if they do touch the paint and the defense collapses. So it's a good way to create some early offense.
- Does Freddy like that? I mean, a lot of point guards want the ball in their hands. And they want to make all the decisions--
NICK NURSE: I think he likes it. Because I know-- we all know, like, one of his biggest strengths offensively, if not his biggest, is the catch-and-shoot-3, right? So it puts him in situation to use his strengths a little more often.
- Nick, you were in Brazil this summer. Can you just talk about Dalano? Did you guys encourage him to play in the AmeriCup? And then what did you take away from that performance?
NICK NURSE: Yeah, of course, we did. I think that-- I mean, I see, like, multiple layers of reasons for him to play. One, he's playing for his country. Two is incredible atmosphere. It's like the first thing I said after the first time Canada played Brazil. That gym was going crazy. It was a close, tough game. Like, anybody that competes in anything would want to play in this atmosphere. How could you not? It was really something to see, right? So those things are good.
But I knew that there was going to be some structured practice, right, with Nate Mitchell, one of our assistants for the Raptors, coaching it. I knew he had a really good staff of player development guys with him. So it was like-- it was like three weeks of regular season or training camp for him, plus live games where he was kind of the focal point, right?
So he came-- for me, that thing almost couldn't have went any better, right? He played great. His daily workouts, his weight room, his shooting, all that stuff got done to a T. He had a ton of late game situations and opportunities against grown men, players that are good, basketball players on good teams. So it really helped him.
I mean, he's in great shape right now, I think, because of it as well. And he-- again, you can get carried away on one day of practice. But he was as good as anybody out there today. So he's probably ahead of everybody just because of all the rhythm he got, spending three weeks with the team.
- Did you have to sell him on that?
- Guys, last couple of questions, please. His squad is ready.
- He was pretty-- ready to go?
NICK NURSE: No, no, he was ready to go. Yeah, he was ready to go. He was-- in fact, the conversation went like, hey, you should play for Canada. He says, Coach, I was always going to play, right? So--
- Nick, quick one with Otto.
NICK NURSE: Yeah?
- You mentioned, like, Thad's veteran leadership.
NICK NURSE: Yep.
- Did Otto come in here with, like, that playoff championship shine? Or has he kind of deferred to the--
NICK NURSE: No, he's-- Otto's a really good just basketball player, right? He does the right things. He's in the right spots. The ball gets swung around and kicked to him, he makes the 3, right? I mean, that's pretty-- that's pretty valuable.
But he just-- you can just see the composure, and experience, and the pace with which he plays, is all-- all fits in really good. So yeah, he's good. He's a good player.