Nick Nurse

Raptors’ Nurse Says He’ll Evaluate Future After Season

Nick Nurse‘s future in Toronto has been a subject of speculation as of late, with multiple reports this week suggesting there has been some league-wide chatter about Nurse’s status. Asked on Friday about those rumors, the Raptors head coach could have poured cold water on them, but his response only added more fuel, writes Josh Lewenberg of

“I think when this season gets done, we’ll evaluate everything,” Nurse told reporters. “Even personally, I’m going to take a few weeks to see where I’m at, where my head’s at, and just see how the relationship with the organization is and everything. It’s been 10 years for me now, which is a pretty good run.”

Nurse has been the head coach in Toronto since 2018 and was an assistant with the franchise under Dwane Casey for five years before that. It has been the Raptors’ most successful decade since entering the NBA in 1995, and Nurse has had a major hand in that success, leading the team to its first ever championship in 2019 and a 224-161 (.582) record across his five seasons.

However, the last three years have been more up and down than the first two. Toronto was just 27-45 in 2020/21 — that appeared at the time to be an aberration due to the fact that the team was forced to play its home games in Tampa due to COVID-19. Following a 48-win showing in 2021/22 though, this season has also been an underwhelming one. The Raptors currently sit under .500 (38-39) with just five games left to play, resulting in speculation about Nurse’s future.

Nurse’s contract expires after the 2023/24 season, and sources with knowledge of the situation tell Lewenberg that the 55-year-old doesn’t want to go into next season as a “lame-duck” coach. So, assuming he wants to continue coaching in Toronto, he’ll be seeking an extension this spring.

That means the Raptors will essentially have to make a decision this year, one way or the other, on Nurse’s future. Both directions – retaining Nurse or making a change – seem plausible at this time, Lewenberg writes, while Eric Koreen of The Athletic says a coaching change feels more likely than not.

Determining Nurse’s future will be just one part of a big offseason for the Raptors, who also have Fred VanVleet, Jakob Poeltl, and Gary Trent Jr. facing potential free agency.

Ime Udoka has been linked to the Raptors as a possible target if they do move on from Nurse. As Koreen points out, Udoka interviewed for the team’s head coaching job in 2018 and has been associated with Basketball Without Borders, which works closely with Masai Ujiri‘s Giants of Africa initiative. Of course, the off-court incident that ended Udoka’s tenure in Boston would be a complicating factor for the Raptors or any other team interested in pursuing the former Celtics head coach.

Nurse, meanwhile, has been linked to Houston, where head coach Stephen Silas isn’t a lock to return next season. Nurse coached the Rockets‘ G League affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, from 2011-13 before joining the Raptors.

Atlantic Notes: Brown, Harden, Nurse, Barrett

Celtics forward Jaylen Brown earned more than $2MM in bonus money on Thursday when he played in his 65th game of the season, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks.

As Marks explains, Brown’s contract with the Celtics includes a bonus of $518K for simply appearing in 65 regular season games. That was considered a likely incentive since he appeared in more than 65 contests last season. Brown’s deal also includes a $1.55MM bonus for making the All-Star team and playing in 65 games, Marks adds. That incentive was considered unlikely, since he wasn’t an All-Star a year ago.

Brown can earn an additional $1.1MM in incentives this spring based on certain individual honors and how far the Celtics advance in the postseason, Marks adds (via Twitter). Reporting from the time that Brown signed his contract suggests he’d have to earn an All-NBA spot and have the Celtics win at least one series to earn that bonus money.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Sixers star James Harden, who returned to action on Wednesday after missing four games due to Achilles soreness, admitted that the injury has been an issue for a while, per Kyle Neubeck of “I don’t know where it came from. It’s been bothering me for some months, I would say,” Harden said. “I just wanted to continue to play on it, and there was one point to where the last game I played, (it was) just really unbearable so I couldn’t even go out there.”
  • There has been no shortage of speculation from scouts, front office executives, assistant coaches, and other people around the NBA about the coaching situation in Toronto, writes Doug Smith of The Toronto Star. Smith cautions that there haven’t been “loud whispers” around the Raptors themselves, and any decisions involving head coach Nick Nurse wouldn’t be made until after the season. It’s very possible Nurse will be back for the final year of his current contract, according to Smith, who notes that roster construction and injuries may be more to blame for Toronto’s underwhelming season than Nurse’s performance.
  • RJ Barrett is prepared to play more minutes at power forward during Julius Randle‘s injury absence if the Knicks ask him to, as Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News relays. “I’ve done it before. I’m comfortable with it,” said Barrett, who has played mostly at the three this season. “With the way the NBA is now, it makes it kind of easier.”

Raptors, Rockets Could Have Interest In Ime Udoka

Former Celtics coach Ime Udoka could draw the attention of the Raptors and Rockets, depending on how their coaching situations shake out after the season, according to Steve Bulpett of

There have been some rumblings regarding Nick Nurse’s status in Toronto and if the two parties decide to separate, Udoka would be a candidate to replace him, a league executive told Bulpett.

The Rockets would be interested in Nurse guiding their young, rebuilding team if he becomes available and they decide to change coaches, according to Bulpett, who adds that Houston would also explore the possibility of hiring Udoka if don’t retain Stephen Silas.

Bulpett previously reported that teams had begun the vetting process regarding Udoka. He won’t return to Boston’s bench after Joe Mazzulla had the interim tag removed. Udoka was rumored to be a candidate for the Hawks’ vacancy before they hired Quin Snyder.

Udoka was suspended for reportedly having an improper relationship with a subordinate. Udoka former boss, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, is hopeful he will get a second chance to be a head coach.

“Ime was and is and always will be a great friend, and so you can imagine that I was deeply disappointed and hurt for him, for everybody involved,” Popovich said. “It’s a difficult situation for him, and my hope is that he will bounce back and find a home.”

Atlantic Notes: Simmons, Harden, Williams, Nurse

Nets coach Jacque Vaughn admits he’s not quite sure how to play Ben Simmons with the major changes made to the team’s roster the past two weeks, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes. Simmons has logged just 16 and 13 minutes in the team’s past two games.

“It’s gonna be some work that we have to do, because you just take a look at what the lineups could potentially look like,” the Nets coach said. “You put another big next to Ben, then you’ve gotta figure out what the spacing is around him. Then if you put another playmaker next to Ben, then you’ve gotta figure out what Ben looks like without the basketball. Then if you go small with Ben, then you’ve gotta figure out can you rebound enough with him. So the challenges are ahead of us. We’ll look them head on. We’ll figure it out.”

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Sixers guard James Harden has chosen new representation, Shams Charania of The Athletic reports. He will be represented by Troy Payne, a former Adidas executive who is partnering with agents Mike Silverman and Brandon Grier. Payne, Silverman and Grier are now the agents for Harden, who signed a two-year contract with the 76ers last offseason but holds a player option on his $35.64MM salary for next season. Harden declined his $47.4MM player option last summer.
  • The Celtics chose not to trade Grant Williams but various teams are monitoring the situation and curious about his future there, Marc Stein writes in a Substack post. Williams will be a restricted free agent this summer and may seek a contract similar to what Keldon Johnson received from the Spurs (four years and $74MM, plus incentives).
  • Nick Nurse is back with the Raptors and will coach them against Orlando tonight, Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports tweets. Nurse missed Sunday’s game against Detroit due to personal reasons.

Atlantic Notes: Griffin, Dedmon, Simmons, Bridges

Adrian Griffin filled in for Nick Nurse on Sunday as the Raptors’ head coach dealt with a family issue. Griffin, who coached the club to a one-point win over Detroit, hopes this experience will help him land a head coaching job down the road, Doug Smith of The Toronto Star writes.

“It’s something I’d like to pursue in the future as far as being a head coach so this is good practice for me,” the Raptors assistant said said. “But I never lose sight of what’s important and that’s the players. I’ve got to make sure that they’re prepared, I’ve got to make sure that they know what’s coming and put them first. Yes, I appreciate this opportunity but I always try to keep it in perspective: We’ve got a game to win and my job is to prepare them to win.”

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Dewayne Dedmon has decided to join the Sixers after he clears waivers, but Philly Voice’s Kyle Neubeck is skeptical that Dedmon is the answer as Joel Embiid‘s backup, given that he’s 33 and he couldn’t establish himself as the Heat’s backup big man. Dedmon made spotty contributions on offense this season and it’s questionable whether he can effectively guard pick-and-rolls, Neubeck writes.
  • Ben Simmons admits he’s not happy with his spotty fourth-quarter minutes, Brian Lewis of the New York Post tweets. “It’s a little frustrating trying to find some rhythm and consistency; but that’s what it is at this point right now,” he said. “Guys have been in and out due to injuries, trades, so there’s been a lot of different things that play factors into it.”
  • Nets fans have quickly embraced Mikal Bridges, the top player they acquired in the Kevin Durant blockbuster. The home crowd chanted “Brooklyn Bridges” as he shot free throws in his team debut on Saturday. “Hearing that chant, I kind of wanted to join in and make them yell louder. … People were already saying ‘Brooklyn Bridges’ when I got traded. I like it,” he said.
  • Bridges didn’t lose his consecutive games streak on a technicality, Brian Mahoney of The Associated Press reports. He was forced to miss a game last week for the first time in his career on Thursday after he was traded by Phoenix. He was listed as “inactive — trade pending” in the official box score. The league determined that since Bridges wasn’t eligible to play, it shouldn’t count as a missed game. He has the league’s longest active streak, now at 367 after the Nets fell to the Knicks on Monday night.

Stein’s Latest: Thybulle, Kings, Hyland, Raptors, Kyrie

The Kings are believed to be keeping an eye on Sixers wing Matisse Thybulle, according to Marc Stein, who reports in his latest Substack story that Sacramento is mulling the possibility of pursuing a defensive-minded player on the perimeter.

Thybulle certainly fits that bill — he has made the All-Defensive Second Team twice in his first three NBA seasons. However, his offensive game is extremely limited. He’s averaging just 2.7 points in 12.1 minutes per night (45 games) for Philadelphia this season. The 25-year-old is also on an expiring contract and will be eligible for restricted free agency this summer.

Here’s more from Stein:

  • Bones Hyland‘s name has popped up in an increasing number of trade rumors as of late, and Stein suggests that the Nuggets guard has emerged as one of the players most likely to be dealt on or before the February 9 deadline. League sources tell Stein that concerns about Hyland’s defensive limitations and some recent “tensions” about his playing time are factors in Denver’s decision to make him available.
  • Stein’s podcast partner Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report said on the first episode of their #thisleague UNCUT podcast that he has heard rumblings all season about certain Raptors players being unhappy with their situations or roles. Stein has heard those same rumblings and says that’s why there has been some curiosity around the NBA about the status of head coach Nick Nurse going forward.
  • Some league observers believe the fact that the Nets haven’t had any substantive extension talks with Kyrie Irving is because they’re not feeling much pressure to lock him up early, according to Stein. The thinking is that Irving may need Brooklyn’s help to go to a desired location via sign-and-trade in the offseason, since the teams with significant cap room will be non-contenders.

Charania’s Latest: Anunoby, Collins, Poeltl, Hyland, More

The Knicks and Suns are among the teams interested in acquiring OG Anunoby, but it may be a few more days before the Raptors decide whether to make him available, writes Shams Charania of The Athletic. Sources tell Charania that Toronto won’t decide whether to be a buyer or seller until close to the February 9 trade deadline. That decision will affect the availability of Anunoby, along with Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr. and possibly others.

The Raptors were counting on another strong season after finishing fifth in the East last year, but they’re just 23-28 so far and stuck in 12th place. However, Toronto has won two of the first three games on its current road trip and still has a realistic shot to reach the play-in tournament.

President of basketball operations Masai Ujiri and general manager Bobby Webster want to take as much time as they can to evaluate the current roster before deciding whether to keep the core together or try to rebuild around Scottie Barnes. The Raptors are expected to seek a premium price if they do make their top players available, and Charania hears that the Knicks are willing to part with multiple first-round picks to land Anunoby.

The organization will also make a decision this summer on the future of head coach Nick Nurse, Charania adds. Toronto hasn’t released the details of Nurse’s most recent contract extension, but sources tell Charania it will expire after the 2023/24 season. He also hears from sources that Nurse has been the target of some of the frustrations this season, and the front office will consider whether a coaching change is in the team’s best interest.

Charania offers more inside information heading into the trade deadline:

  • The Hawks are still listening to offers for John Collins, but new head of basketball operations Landry Fields is telling teams that Collins is considered an important asset rather than a salary to dump. The Jazz remain interested in Collins, sources tell Charania, and when the teams discussed a deal early this season, Atlanta sought Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt in return. Utah reportedly asked for a first-round pick as well, which caused negotiations to stall.
  • Spurs center Jakob Poeltl is getting increased interest on the trade market, and Charania believes he could be headed to an Eastern Conference team such as the Celtics or Raptors.
  • The Nuggets are holding active trade conversations regarding Bones Hyland, and sources tell Charania that the Timberwolves are among the interested teams.
  • The Hornets are engaged in trade talks regarding Mason Plumlee and Kelly Oubre, according to Charania, and the Suns, Raptors, Jazz, Pacers and Spurs are among the teams monitoring Jalen McDaniels. Charlotte may value McDaniels too highly to consider a trade, but teams with cap space are expected to target him when he becomes a free agent this summer.
  • The Jazz are also interested in Mavericks forward Dorian Finney-Smith, and Charania reports that rival teams believe he would be available in a deal involving a star player. Executives tell Charania that Dallas has put a high price on Finney-Smith, who signed a four-year, $55MM extension last year.
  • Jaylen Nowell is strongly considering leaving the Timberwolves this summer in free agency if he doesn’t get an extension in Minnesota, according to Charania’s sources.

Raptors Notes: VanVleeet, Trade Rumors, Anunoby, Achiuwa

Fred VanVleet is expected to decline his $22,824,074 option in order to become a free agent this summer. However, the Raptors guard downplayed the timing of his decision to cut ties with his long-time agent, Brian Jungreis, according to Michael Grange of Sportsnet. VanVleet also said he hasn’t chosen an agent, despite reports that he’ll sign with Klutch Sports.

“It was a long time in the making,” the Raptors guard said. “Maybe the paperwork getting filed around the time when my name is in a lot of trade rumors, it’s going to make some noise, but there’s really nothing to it. It’s just time for me to switch agents for the second half of my career. It didn’t work out with the previous thing going on. I’m looking forward to a long, prosperous career, so I wouldn’t read too much into it.”

We have more from the Raptors:

  • VanVleet, of course, isn’t the only player who has been mentioned in trade rumors. Virtually the entire starting lineup has been thrown into the rumor mill and coach Nick Nurse admits the chatter hangs over them, Doug Smith of The Toronto Star writes. “There are guys that are thinking about where they’re living, where they’re moving, what their family situation is, kids in school,” Nurse said. “There’s the real-life part of it that, for sure, guys are thinking about. But I also believe once you get here and once the ball goes up, they probably focus in and do the best they can on the night.”
  • OG Anunoby departed the Raptors’ victory over Portland early on Saturday due to a left wrist sprain. Though X-rays were negative, he has been ruled out for Monday’s game against Phoenix, Blake Murphy of Sportsnet tweets.
  • With Anunoby sidelined, Precious Achiuwa stepped up with 27 points and 13 rebounds on Saturday. Nurse was impressed with Achiuwa’s performance, Erik Garcia Gundersen of The Associated Press writes. “He was in the right place at the right time a lot tonight and that’s a good sign that he’s making himself available,” Nurse said. “He made really good reads and (teammates) found him and he made a couple of plays on his own. I was happy that he was available because teams will step up to Pascal (Siakam) when he’s driving.” Achiuwa is extension-eligible this offseason.

Raptors Notes: January, Achiuwa, Porter, VanVleet

This January will be one of the Raptors‘ most important regular season months in the last decade, according to Eric Koreen of The Athletic, who writes that Toronto’s year could begin one of two ways — either the team starts playing better and begins to fulfill its promise, or its struggles continue and Masai Ujiri will have to seriously consider whether to break up the Raptors’ core.

The crucial month got off to a disappointing start on Monday as the Raptors lost 122-114 to the Pacers in Indiana, falling to 16-21 on the season. It’s the type of game Toronto will need to start winning more often than not, but Indiana looked like the deeper and better team on Monday, says Koreen.

The Raptors’ schedule leading up to the trade deadline is favorable, as Koreen writes, with 14 of 19 games against teams currently in either play-in or lottery position. They’ll also play their next six games at home, so if they’re going to make a move up the standings, it will probably need to start soon.

Here’s more out of Toronto:

  • Big man Precious Achiuwa, who had been out since November 9 due to a right ankle injury, returned to the court on Monday and recorded three points and three blocked shots in 12 minutes. He admitted after the game that his conditioning could use some work, tweets Josh Lewenberg of “I was so out of breath it was crazy,” Achiuwa said of his first four-minute stint. “I was so tired I couldn’t even drink water. It felt like I was going to pass out.” He added that he began to feel better during his later minutes.
  • Asked today if Otto Porter Jr. is making progress in recovery from his foot injury, head coach Nick Nurse didn’t offer much reason for enthusiasm, tweets Lewenberg. “He’s not, he’s not,” Nurse said. As Lewenberg notes (via Twitter), the hope was that Porter, who saw a specialist for his dislocated toe in mid-December, would be able to avoid surgery and return in January, but his outlook is cloudier now.
  • Prior to Monday’s loss to Indiana, Fred VanVleet said he welcomes a tough-love approach from Nurse and is prepared to dish out some of that tough love to his teammates too if need be. “What would you rather have? Somebody rubbing your shoulders and telling you everything’s going to be OK? No,” VanVleet said, according to Doug Smith of The Toronto Star. “We’ve got a standard around here that we try to play to, and it’s not even results-based. It’s based on performances, and the last couple performances where we just don’t show up to play, that’s unacceptable.”

Raptors Notes: Young, Porter, Boucher

Raptors reserve forward Thaddeus Young has seen his role reduced in the early going this season, having been a DNP-CD for a couple games. Head coach Nick Nurse discussed how he saw the vet fitting into the club’s rotation, per Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports (Twitter link).

“He’s gotta stay ready,” Nurse said. “I talked to him immediately after the Miami game and he [said], ‘Coach, I’m ready and I’ll always be ready’ and totally with what we’re doing, all that kind of stuff. I wouldn’t say that I planned on not using him [in] Miami that night, it’s just kinda how it turned out… We’re gonna need him, there’s just no doubt about it… It’s kinda a night-to-night thing.”

There’s more out of Toronto:

  • Nurse said that Raptors forward Otto Porter Jr. will be unavailable “for a bit” due to undisclosed personal reasons, according to Lewenberg (Twitter link). Nurse suggested that the 6’8″ vet, who signed a two-year, $12.4MM contract with Toronto after winning a title with the Warriors last season, will be part of the team’s rotation once he makes his debut, Lewenberg adds (via Twitter).
  • Raptors reserve big man Chris Boucher has been a helpful change-of-pace figure for the club as a key backup, writes Lewenberg for “It’s important for me to bring energy and I think that’s a way to show that I’m ready to the coach and also to myself,” Boucher said. Toronto point guard Fred VanVleet likes the new dimension that his teammate brings to the court: “He just plays with a little bit more energy than the rest of us at times. Fresh legs and just being able to fly around, throw some corner-threes in, [grab] offensive rebounds. He just finds creases that a guy like him is skinny enough to slip through. He’s just a great presence for us out there.” 
  • In case you missed it, the Raptors were projected by Forbes as the NBA’s 11th-most valuable franchise, with an estimated worth of $3.1 billion.