Nick Nurse

Atlantic Notes: Payton, Raptors, LeVert, Johnson

Elfrid Payton remains the starting point guard for the Knicks ahead of breakout rookie Immanuel Quickley and veteran off-guard Austin Rivers thanks to Payton’s solid defense, writes Marc Berman of the New York Post.

Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau was diplomatically effusive in his praise of both Payton and Quickley, the latter of whom Berman notes has become a fan favorite. “I love both guys — they’re different and bring different things to the team,’’ Thibodeau said Sunday. “Elfrid, when you look at his defense and size, a lot of these guards, particularly point guards in the NBA today, they’re a load to deal with. Elfrid has a good understanding how to defend them.”

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Nets-turned-Pacers wing Caris LeVert was notified by Brooklyn GM Sean Marks during their 2020 offseason that he might be traded in 2020/21, according to J Michael of the Indianapolis Star“Sean was very honest with me from the first time the rumors came out. He told me don’t rule it out,” LeVert said. “I didn’t know it was going to happen. I just knew that it was a possibility and there was a lot of speculation.” 
  • With the Raptors having finally established a consistent rotation, the team is rebounding from an ugly beginning to its season, Doug Smith of the Toronto Star writes. Toronto is on a three-game win streak following a 2-8 start. “I think that we’re continuing to find out things about our team that are improving the team,” head coach Nick Nurse said yesterday. “Guys are comfortable with the guys that we’re putting out there and I think those guys have chipped in pretty considerably.
  • Hustling in practice has carved out a rotation role for Raptors reserve forward Stanley Johnson, per Doug Smith of the Toronto Star. “I think the important quality is that he’s maintained … a really strong work ethic day in and day out, which isn’t easy to do for somebody who’s been in the league for a while when you’re not hitting the court for really long stretches of time,” Nurse said. Johnson is averaging 14.7 MPG for Toronto in 11 contests.

Atlantic Notes: VanVleet, Nurse, Knicks, Celtics

Making an appearance today on Sportsnet program Tim and Sid in Canada, Raptors head coach (and 2020 Coach of the Year) Nick Nurse said that he expects free agent starting guard Fred VanVleet to re-sign with Toronto, per Sportsnet’s Steven Loung (Twitter link).

As we discussed previously, VanVleet, the premiere unrestricted free agent guard of this offseason, could command something close to the four-year, $85MM contract guard Malcolm Brogdon agreed to in a sign-and-trade with the Pacers last season. VanVleet proved a key contributor for the Raptors, who enjoyed a strong season after losing Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard in free agency.

VanVleet had his best year during the 2019/20 season, as he became a full-time starter for the first time with the Raptors. Brogdon was a similarly high-level starting creator for an East contender at the same junction in his career as VanVleet finds himself in now, his age-26 season.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • In a conference call today, Nick Nurse talked about his new extension with the Raptors, according to Tim Bontemps of ESPN“I don’t know if it’s a load off my mind or anything,” Nurse said. “Obviously, man, I love being here and love the job, and there’s nothing not to love, man.”
  • New Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau will need to shore up the shooters on his roster for his preferred style of play, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News suggests.
  • With the Celtics in a 3-1 hole in the Eastern Conference Finals, Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe explores the steps the team can take to win the series and advance to its first Finals appearance since 2010. Beyond this season, front office decisions loom on two playoff rotation Celtics: Brad Wanamaker, a restricted free agent with a cheap $1.8MM qualifying offer, and Daniel Theis, whose $5MM contract for next season becomes fully guaranteed in October. Fellow rotation players Gordon Hayward and Enes Kanter both have player options for 2020/21.

Charania’s Latest: Pacers, Donovan, Bulls, Nurse, More

The Pacers have added another name to their list of head coaching candidates, having interview former Oklahoma City coach Billy Donovan last week, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic.

While Donovan’s addition increases the number of candidates connected to the Pacers to a total of 18, Charania hears that the team is expected to only interview about a dozen contenders for the job. From there, the plan is for Indiana to trim its list approximately in half, then to conduct in-person interviews with the finalists.

Here are a few more notes and rumors from Charania’s latest column for The Athletic:

  • The Bulls continue to narrow down their head coaching pool and will likely meet with finalists soon, according to Charania, who hears that Kenny Atkinson, Darvin Ham, Ime Udoka, and Wes Unseld Jr. are among the candidate who have had strong interviews so far.
  • The new multiyear contract extension signed last week by Raptors head coach Nick Nurse is worth approximately $8MM per year, making him one of the NBA’s highest-paid coaches, per Charania. Nurse’s previous deal was reportedly worth in the neighborhood of $3MM per year, but he has won a title and a Coach of the Year award since signing that contract in 2018.
  • Kawhi Leonard isn’t expecting the 2020/21 NBA season to get underway anytime soon, as Charania relays. “February, maybe?” Leonard said last week after the Clippers were eliminated from the postseason. “I’ve also heard March.”
  • In case you missed it, we also passed along items from Charania on the Sixers’ coaching search, the Clippers’ offseason, and Will Barton‘s injury.

Eastern Notes: Bertans, Vaughn, Nurse, Antetokounmpo

Wizards forward Davis Bertans‘ decision to pass on the restart was driven by free agency, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington relays. Bertans made his comments on the ‘Basketball Network’ show on YouTube.

“I think there were multiple reasons,” the Wizards’ sharpshooter said. “Of course, one of the main ones I guess is that I was an upcoming free agent and we were put in a position as very unlikely to make the playoffs. To risk an injury after not playing basketball and not really working out for almost two months [was not smart]. That was the main reason.”

We have more from the Eastern Conference:

  • The Nets are hopeful that Jacques Vaughn will remain on Steve Nash’s staff even though they passed on making him the permanent head coach, according to Brian Lewis of the New York Post. Vaughn has been identified is a candidate for the Pacers coaching job. The Rockets are also reportedly interested, though the Nets would have to grant those teams permission to interview him.
  • Handing coach Nick Nurse an extension was an important first step during a tricky offseason for the Raptors, Josh Lewenberg of TSN Canada opines. The Raptors need to position themselves for the summer of 2021, when they could chase top free agents. The next step this offseason would be to reach extension agreements with team president Masai Ujiri and GM Bobby Webster, Lewenberg adds. Details of Nurse’s multiyear extension can be found here.
  • The safest bet regarding Giannis Antetokounmpo is that he stays put with the Bucks, either through a Designated Veteran Extension this offseason or re-signing on a shorter deal next year, according to Danny Leroux of The Athletic. Leroux looks at all the options and possibilities regarding Antetokounmpo’s future in the wake of the Bucks’ surprisingly early playoff exit.
  • The Raptors will have approximately $45MM to spend on their own free agents or using the mid-level exception before going into the luxury tax, according to Blake Murphy of The Athletic. Murphy takes a closer look at the Raptors’ balance sheet and impending decisions, including Fred VanVleet‘s free agency.

Raptors Sign Nick Nurse To Multiyear Extension

The Raptors have signed head coach Nick Nurse to a multiyear contract extension, the team announced today in a press release. Nurse’s three-year deal with the club had been set to expire in 2021.

“Our confidence in Nick just continues to grow, and part of that comes from what we’ve experienced together. The past two seasons have been unlike any other in our team’s history – first, winning our championship, and then navigating a global pandemic and committing long-term to the fight against racism and for social justice,” Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri said in a statement. “Nick has proved that he can coach on the court and lead in life, and we’re looking forward to accomplishing great things in the future.”

Previously an assistant coach on the Raptors’ staff under Dwane Casey, Nurse was promoted following the 2017/18 season and has enjoyed a near-perfect two-year run in his first stint as an NBA head coach. He has an 111-43 (.721) regular season record and a 23-12 (.657) postseason mark during that stretch, winning the franchise’s first-ever title in 2019 and earning Coach of the Year honors in 2020.

While the Raptors’ playoff run this summer ended in the second round with a Game 7 loss to the Celtics, Nurse earned praise all season long for leading Toronto to a No. 2 seed in the East despite losing Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and dealing with a bevy of injuries to his starters and rotation players.

The terms of Nurse’s new contract aren’t yet known, but a multiyear extension means the team has added at least two seasons to the one year left on his initial deal, locking him up through at least 2023.

It’s also probably safe to assume that Nurse received a raise on his new contract. When he was promoted to replace Casey in 2018, his three-year deal was said to be worth less than $10MM in total.

Nurse is one of several key figures within the organization who was in line for an extension this offseason. President of basketball operations Masai Ujiri and general manager Bobby Webster each have one year left on their respective contracts, and the club figures to pursue new deals with both executives very soon. Meanwhile, Fred VanVleet, Marc Gasol, and Serge Ibaka are all on track for unrestricted free agency, while OG Anunoby is becoming extension-eligible for the first time.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Raptors Notes: Game 3 Victory, Lowry, Nurse

It took a miracle shot for Toronto to edge the Celtics in Game 3, but Raptors players believe their performance throughout the entire second half might have changed direction of the series, writes Michael Grange of Toronto rediscovered the formula that led to a championship last season, getting contributions up and down the roster to overcome a 10-point halftime deficit.

“I think it’s really good for guys to be able to come in and make plays down the stretch when we need ’em,” Norman Powell said. “I think guys on this team have all been in situations like that when their name is called or whatever it is that they’ve gotta go out there and perform and produce no matter what role you’re in or how many minutes you get, you’re trying to go out there and make winning plays for the team. I thought everybody down the stretch, especially in the second half, was able to do that in certain ways. It wasn’t always scoring, it was little things that didn’t show up on the box score: Setting screens for guys to get open and get to the rim, moving the ball, things like that.”

There’s more Raptors news to pass along:

  • Kyle Lowry shared in the game-winning moment, throwing the inbounds pass that set up OG Anunoby‘s game-winner, but Toronto needed his brilliant performance throughout the game to have a chance, observes John Schuhmann of Lowry, who had been mired in a shooting slump for the first two games of the series, explained the inspiration for his breakout performance of 31 points, six rebounds and eight assists. “I got a text from a real close friend of mine,” he said, “and he kinda told me, ‘Stop waiting.’ And that was pretty much the game plan for me tonight, to stop waiting and be aggressive from the jump. He was correct.”
  • Nick Nurse is endorsing comments from Nuggets coach Michael Malone, who criticized the NBA for not allowing family members to enter the Disney World campus until the first round of the playoffs ended, tweets Josh Lewenburg of TSN Sports. Nurse said he probably wouldn’t have brought his family because he doesn’t believe the atmosphere is good for children, but he agreed that many coaches and staff members have been affected by being isolated for so long.
  • In case you missed it, the Raptors are considered one of the leading contenders to sign Giannis Antetokounmpo if he becomes a free agent next summer.

Atlantic Notes: Harris, Hayward, Nurse, Bryant

Even if the Nets manage to extend their season by winning today, they don’t know when Joe Harris might return to Orlando, according to Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Harris left the Disney World complex after Game 2 because of a family emergency. Teammates said he knew about the situation ahead of time, but still played on Wednesday.

“We haven’t even assessed that yet,” coach Jacque Vaughn said about whether Harris might rejoin the team. “My conversations with him were just checking on him to make sure that he was good and to let him know that we’re here for him when needed. I think the biggest task right now is for us to extend the series, and so to get a win and see what happens afterwards. It’s the ultimate compliment to him that he was concerned about the guys and the game, and so encouraging of the group. So while we were checking on him he was checking on us.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Celtics forward Gordon Hayward, who is sidelined with a Grade III sprain of his right ankle, has left Orlando and will return when he is closer to being ready to play, according to a tweet from the team. Hayward suffered the injury Monday and was projected to miss about four weeks.
  • Nick Nurse’s reaction to the loss of Kawhi Leonard last summer laid the groundwork for his Coach of the Year honor, writes Josh Lewenberg of TSN. Nurse didn’t panic when Leonard announced he was headed to the Clippers in free agency, breaking up a team that had just won the NBA title. Instead, he started looking for solutions to keep the team in the championship chase without its best player. “When you see Nick on the sidelines, that’s who he is as a person – relaxed but so hard working, creative and dynamic, always setting the tone for our team (by) attacking our next championship, rather than defending our last,” said team president Masai Ujiri. “That is who Nick is, that is why we believe in him. His journey to this tremendous honor has been a long one – we are so happy to see him recognized this way.”
  • Jazz coach Quin Snyder said assistant Johnnie Bryant will be a valuable addition to Tom Thibodeau’s staff with in New York, states Marc Berman of The New York Post. The Knicks are expected to officially announce the move soon, but Bryant will continue to coach alongside Snyder as long as Utah’s playoff run continues. “He’s been someone who’s been with me since I got to Utah,” Snyder said. “Tactically, he’s learned (a lot) in the game and on the bench. He’s great on the court with players and you see him develop guys. It’s something we take pride in with our program. Johnnie’s been a big part of that.’’

Nick Nurse Wins NBA Coach Of The Year

Raptors head coach Nick Nurse has been named the 2019/20 NBA Head Coach of the Year, the league announced today in a press release.

Nurse, 53, led Toronto to the organization’s first NBA championship last season. Despite the loss of Kawhi Leonard, the Raptors had an even better winning percentage during the ’19/20 regular season than they did a year ago, clinching the Eastern Conference’s second seed. Toronto currently holds a 3-0 lead over the Nets in the team’s first-round playoff series.

Of the 100 total first-place votes, Nurse garnered 90 of them in a clear runaway with the award. His 470 total points dwarfed the 147 points earned by runner-up Mike Budenholzer — the Bucks head coach received five first-place votes.

Thunder head coach Billy Donovan, who received four first-place votes, was the third-place finisher with 134 total points. Pacers head coach Nate McMillan got the final first-place vote.

Here’s the full breakdown of the voting for the NBA Coach of the Year:

  1. Nurse (470 points)
  2. Budenholzer (147)
  3. Donovan (134)
  4. Erik Spoelstra, Heat (154)
  5. Frank Vogel, Lakers (36)
  6. Taylor Jenkins, Grizzlies (29)
  7. McMillan (12)
  8. Brad Stevens, Celtics (5)
  9. Michael Malone, Nuggets (5)
  10. Doc Rivers, Clippers (5)
  11. Rick Carlisle, Mavericks (3)

NBA Announces All-Bubble Awards

The NBA announced today that Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard has been named the Player of the Seeding Games, earning de facto MVP honors for the league’s restart.

Lillard, who averaged 37.6 PPG and 9.6 APG on .497/.436/.888 shooting in eight seeding games, led the Blazers to a 6-2 record, allowing the team to surpass the Grizzlies for the No. 8 seed in the West. Portland will earn the conference’s final playoff spot if it picks up a win over Memphis today or tomorrow.

Lillard was the unanimous selection among 22 media voters for the bubble’s MVP award. Devin Booker (Suns) received 19 second-place votes, with T.J. Warren (Pacers) picking up two and Luka Doncic (Mavericks) getting the other one. Booker, Warren, Doncic, James Harden (Rockets) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks) all received third-place votes.

Meanwhile, Suns head coach Monty Williams was named the Coach of the Seeding Games, per today’s announcement. The selection comes as no surprise after Williams led Phoenix to an 8-0 record this summer. The Suns narrowly missed out on a spot in the play-in tournament, but were the only club that went undefeated during the seeding games, despite initially being ranked 21st of the 22 teams invited to Orlando.

Williams was a near-unanimous choice, with Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts receiving one first-place vote and finishing second overall in voting. Nets coach Jacque Vaughn and Raptors coach Nick Nurse were among the other top vote-getters.

The NBA also announced All-Seeding Games First and Second Teams, as follows:

First Team:

  • Damian Lillard (Trail Blazers)
  • Devin Booker (Suns)
  • Luka Doncic (Mavericks)
  • James Harden (Rockets)
  • T.J. Warren (Pacers)

Second Team:

Lillard, Booker, and Doncic were unanimous First Team selections, with Harden and Warren each receiving 18 of 22 First Team votes. Antetokounmpo received the other eight First Team votes.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NBA Announces Finalists For 2019/20 Awards

The NBA has announced the finalists for several awards as the seeding games on the Orlando campus move forward and the postseason nears. It was announced in July that all awards for the 2019/20 season would be based on games up until March 11, when the coronavirus pandemic shuttered play. Media members made their votes before the seeding games began on July 30.

NBA Most Valuable Player Finalists:

NBA Defensive Player of the Year:

NBA Rookie of the Year:

NBA Most Improved Player:

NBA Sixth Man of the Year:

NBA Coach of the Year:

  • Mike Budenholzer (Bucks)
  • Billy Donovan (Thunder)
  • Nick Nurse (Raptors)

The winners for the awards will be announced during the NBA playoffs after the seeding games period concludes on August 14.