In the wake of the departures of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green to Los Angeles, the Raptors signed free agents Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Stanley Johnson, hoping the veteran forwards would provide the team with above-average defense — even if they don’t score like Leonard and Green.
However, asked today if the presence of Hollis-Jefferson and Johnson is helping to solidify Toronto’s defense this fall, head coach Nick Nurse didn’t hold back in disputing that notion, as Eric Koreen of The Athletic and Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca relay.
“Nope. Nope. Nope. Those guys have not understood, a.) how hard we play, b.), our schemes, that defense is a priority for them, etc.,” Nurse said. “We’ve got some work to do with all that crew.
“I tell them there (are) a couple spots, come Tuesday night, there (are) a couple spots that are open if somebody wants them. ‘I keep telling you, show me you’re going to play defense. Show me you’re going to play hard. Show me you understand our coverages. Show me. And then, whatever you do at the other end, you’re going to get opportunities just because of who you’re on the floor with.'”
As Lewenberg notes (via Twitter), the eight players who are viewed as locks to open the regular season in the Raptors’ rotation were all on last year’s roster. Since Toronto will likely play a 10-man rotation, that leaves a couple spots up for grabs.
Returning youngsters like Malcolm Miller and Chris Boucher may be candidates for those spots if Nurse doesn’t trust Hollis-Jefferson and Johnson, as Lewenberg points out (Twitter link). We’ll see how the veterans respond to Nurse’s criticism in Toronto’s final game of the preseason on Friday vs. Brooklyn.