Raptors coach Nick Nurse discusses the Washington Wizards and offers thoughts on playing the same team twice in a row. Also, how moving Thad Young to power forward helps him and Jakob Poeltl’s influence on other players in their defence.
NICK NURSE: Good morning.
- Good morning.
- No one's seen Washington in quite a while. What do they-- they're-- they're a new team, team league, apparently. What do they do?
NICK NURSE: Well, we usually wait till March till we-- [LAUGHS]
- Tell them.
NICK NURSE: --see them. I mean, listen, they've got, obviously, Beal. And they've got some backcourt talent. Kuzma's playing very well. Gafford is playing well. You know, they're-- they're-- they're a talented pretty-- pretty deep team that's-- you know, with the rest of us in here, has some really good games, some good wins, some good moments, and has some slip-ups along the way. So this is a-- a talented team that we're going to-- going to have to go get ready for.
- Talk about year, about these two-game series, how they're so difficult to sweep because teams adapt in that off days. Does this one carry more weight because of when it is in the year?
NICK NURSE: Yeah, it does. I think it certainly does now and because of where we are in relation to each other in the standings as well. For sure. I don't even know how those two-game things have gone this year. Most of them have been splits.
- Splits, yeah.
NICK NURSE: Did we get one sweep? They're not. I don't know, yeah, mostly, yeah.
- Lost one against Orlando and I think won both--
NICK NURSE: There you go.
- Left in Orlando.
- --won both-- there was one.
- I guess you won the two against Charlotte.
NICK NURSE: Two against Charlotte, yeah. Yeah, so there you go.
- But isn't it hard--
NICK NURSE: Take them one at a time, yeah.
- --it's hard to speak those things, though, because you have that off day--
NICK NURSE: Well--
- --to adjust, like, your plans for the day?
NICK NURSE: --you know-- well, I think that there's that in there. I mean, I think, you know, when I was-- when I was in the minor leagues, we did it all the time. And that was-- it was just like you see. It-- it was split-- split, split, split, all around the league, every weekend, it seemed like. So there must be something to it, right?
It is just-- just a bit of a mentality and all that kind of stuff that you got to-- you got to try to guard against and-- and prepare for. So-- but won't worry about two. We'll just worry about one. And then we'll worry about the other one.
- That's said, do you like the-- do you like the format? Like, would you like to see them stay with it?
NICK NURSE: I'm really neutral on it. I don't think I like it or I don't dislike it terribly, I don't think, either. So I'm OK. I guess I'm going to-- I'm going to-- I'm going to play the schedule the way they throw it at you. And there's got-- there's lots of-- there's always lots of scheduling things you have to fight through, right? And there's also usually an advantages or two here and there, probably. Just hope it kind of levels out for everybody the same in the end.
- You mentioned last night these were big games. And they are. How close can an early March game, two games against Washington come to the feel of a-- a playoff game?
NICK NURSE: I mean, listen, I think-- I think that there's going to be a lot of intensity, and fight, and stuff out there, for sure. I think, on the floor, the players will be sensing it's similar, for sure.
- When you sign a guy like Will, and he just happens to be from teams that you guys are playing coming up with Washington and Denver, can you say, like, what's the inside scoop? How much-- much do signing guys help with those kind of things?
NICK NURSE: Well, I-- I-- I would say that we'll-- we'll talk to him about some things. I mean, I think that-- I think that usually, in-- in any of these situations, that you put your-- you know, we put our game plan together, like, as per normal. And-- and those guys kind of got an open door to speak during the films and all that stuff if they can add anything.
And it-- you know, it's usually like-- I mean, our coaches do a lot of film work. So they're usually spot on with what they're-- what they're saying. And then those guys can chip in a few things. But it helps when they do, for sure.
- When you guys brought Thad in the middle of the year last year, a lot of the young guys kind of spoke highly about his leadership, picking his brain and all that. Do you feel like Will could do something similar in terms of bringing that veteran leadership?
NICK NURSE: For sure. I think-- I think that the one thing, I think, when we-- when we saw that Will was available, the one thing doing our homework that everybody said was he's a great pro-- very great pro, great person, really important to us in that way. And I would assume he's been in the league so long that that'll turn into-- that means he's-- he'll be a good locker room leader and a good-- good guy that-- good example for the-- some of the younger players, for sure.
- Now, with one of those secondary rotations, you had Scottie, Gary, OG, Thad, and Jak. I was just wondering what you would like them, maybe-- would like to see improve offensively with that team.
NICK NURSE: Who was that again?
- Scottie, Gary, OG, Thad, Jak.
NICK NURSE: Yeah, I remember putting Jak in and moving Thad to the four, which was something I've been wanting to do a little bit over the last couple of games, and really, as you know, I haven't got it done because Thad's hardly played. So I'm wanting to do that.
I mean, Thad's not-- I mean, Thad's natural position's a four, right? So we've-- we've had him playing out of position most of the year. So looked more comfortable. I think, going back to that, I just-- I just-- I don't remember exactly, but it seems to me that they went back a bit bigger with Vucevic. And that's why I wanted Jak to get back in.
But it just wasn't Thad. Thad had just-- he hadn't quite-- had got a good enough stint in yet. And that's just how it turned out. I can't remember-- remember what happened. Was it a good stint or not? Seemed like it probably was.
- It was OK.
NICK NURSE: Because Thad was-- yeah, it was OK. Thad was-- Thad-- both his stints were pretty good last night. So it's probably OK.
- I think-- I think we can all see your defense making incremental gains on a nightly basis. But part of that, obviously, Poeltl showing up. But why do you think-- what has got the rest of them to that point where they're starting to do the right thing in this?
NICK NURSE: Well, I think that-- I think you're right. You know, I haven't, like, boiled it down analytically too closely yet. I might do that on this trip. But it feels to me that the rim protection's gotten better, right, for one. And that-- I mean, that's covering up mistakes.
NICK NURSE: Right? I mean, there-- there's a-- you know, some--
- But that's Jak.
NICK NURSE: --covering up some high-percentage plays that we were giving up. Go ahead.
- A lot of that's Jak, though.
NICK NURSE: Yeah.
- What, like-- I-- I mean, beyond Jak, like his--
NICK NURSE: Well, I think-- I think that-- that knowing that you're going to get a few of those out there, I think, has given these guys-- you know, get a few of those erased is giving these guys a little bit more confidence, right? I just think that, again, good players lift up others. And I think, knowing we've got a good defensive center, and a guy that's protecting the rim, and he communicates, and he's smart, and all that stuff gets those other guys playing a little bit better.