Nick Nurse

Raptors Notes: Boucher, Nurse, Player Development

After playing 164 total minutes in his first two NBA seasons, Raptors big man Chris Boucher has become a more regular part of the team’s rotation in 2019/20, averaging 13.2 MPG in 55 contests. Asked on Wednesday what he thinks he has proven this season, Boucher had a quick answer, per Ryan Wolstat of The Toronto Sun.

“That I can play,” Boucher said. “Obviously, there’s a lot of stuff that I can get better at, but I think that my technique I was able to show right out of the door and kind of find ways to help the team win. I think that’s what’s most important. That I could be effective in the game. I think I’ve learned that.”

Boucher will be a restricted free agent this offseason. However, given the unusual nature of the NBA’s current hiatus and the uncertainty surrounding when the offseason will even take place, Boucher said his next contract isn’t something that’s currently on his mind.

“I knew this (contract) stuff was coming, so, obviously, it’s gonna be a process, but for me right now that’s not what I’m thinking about,” Boucher said. “There’s way more important things to be thinking about right now.”

Let’s round up some more Raptors-related items…

  • Eric Koreen of The Athletic provides an interesting breakdown on why Raptors head coach Nick Nurse looks like the odds-on favorite to win the NBA’s Coach of the Year award for 2019/20.
  • Identifying, acquiring, and developing under-the-radar gems – including Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, and Terence Davis – has been a major factor in the Raptors’ success in recent years. Blake Murphy of The Athletic explores how Toronto’s ability to identify and develop that talent sets the club apart.
  • In case you missed it, on Wednesday we identified VanVleet as one of five Eastern Conference free-agents-to-be who have boosted their value with strong 2019/20 performances.

International Notes: Beaubois, Spain, Nurse, James

Anadolu Efes of Turkey and former NBA guard Rodrigue Beaubois have reached a contract extension agreement until 2022, Sportando’s Dario Skerletic relays via Israeli reporter Roi Cohen. Beaubois played four seasons for Dallas from 2009-13. This season, the French guard averaged 11.1 PPG over 43 games.

We have more news from around the basketball world:

  • Spain’s ACB league has been suspended indefinitely, according to Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia. Play was already suspended until April 24th due to the coronavirus outbreak in the country. The league’s teams will decide how to proceed n the upcoming weeks.
  • Raptors coach Nick Nurse remains fully committed to coaching Team Canada in Tokyo Olympic qualifiers, Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports tweets. Nurse is “really excited” about it and hopes the Olympics, rescheduled for next summer, can go forward as planned.
  • A trio of former NBA players heads the list of the best players in Europe, according to Jeff Greer of The Athletic. A survey of 21 coaches and players overseas choose former Phoenix and New Orleans guard Mike James as the top player in Europe this season in a close votes. Guard Shane Larkin and forward Nikola Mirotic tied for the second-most votes. Maccabi Tel Aviv forward Deni Avdija, a likely top-10 pick in this year’s draft, is considered the top international NBA prospect.

Atlantic Notes: Walker, Smart, Embiid, Raptors

Kemba Walker‘s left knee is feeling better, but the Celtics guard won’t know how it’s going to respond to competition until he gets to test it against someone, writes A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston. Walker has gotten plenty of time to rest since the league shut down three weeks ago.

“The knee is doing well,” he said. “It’s difficult because I don’t have anyone around to give me treatments or anything like that. I have to do my own stuff, which I’m trying to do as much as possible; try to stay on top of things.”

Walker developed swelling in the knee during the All-Star break. He had it drained, then received a shot of Synvisc to ease the soreness and minimize swelling. He’s waiting out the hiatus like everyone else and hoping for a chance to try out the knee under game conditions.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Now that Celtics guard Marcus Smart has recovered from the coronavirus, he will donate blood in hopes that it will help to find a treatment for COVID-19, according to ESPN. Three other players who tested positive for the virus also plan to make blood donations, but they haven’t been identified. The league office reached out to team doctors over the weekend to encourage players who tested positive to give blood samples to the National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project.
  • Joel Embiid‘s response to a plan by Sixers majority owner Josh Harris to reduce some employees’ salaries while the league is shut down raises questions about his long-term future with the team, suggests Bob Ford of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Harris changed his mind about the pay cuts, but not before Embiid made a public offer to help everyone who would have been affected. Ford claims Embiid’s relationship with the organization has always been “fractious” and states that embarrassing the owner may lead to an eventual parting.
  • In a conference call with reporters, Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri said potential extensions for himself and coach Nick Nurse won’t be discussed while the league is on hiatus (Twitter link from Eric Koreen of The Athletic). The team is currently paused with no talk of extensions or contracts for anyone, adds Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports (Twitter link). “It’s not where our minds are at right now,” Ujiri said. “This is a crucial time for the world. Those things will come.”

Community Shootaround: Coach Of The Year Favorites

This season, the Coach of the Year race appears to have plenty of intriguing candidates. With the All-Star break upon us, we at Hoops Rumors deemed it a good time to reflect on where things stand currently.

Mike Budenholzer is leading the 46-8 Bucks towards potentially the NBA’s third-ever 70+ win season. Superstar forward Giannis Antetokounmpo may win his second consecutive MVP award under Budenholzer’s tutelage, while wing Khris Middleton has made his second straight All-Star team.

In their second year under Nick Nurse, the Raptors are miraculously on pace for a better record than they had during a champion run last year, minus 2019 Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. Pascal Siakam has blossomed into an All-Star starter. Fellow All-Star Kyle Lowry has remained a steadying presence on the court. Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby and Norman Powell have all taken notable leaps.

Erik Spoelstra has coached the new-look Heat to a 35-19 record in the East, helped center Bam Adebayo become a first-time All-Star, and made the most out of promising rookies Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn, plus second-year sharpshooter Duncan Robinson.

The Celtics lost Kyrie Irving and Al Horford to free agency over the summer, and signed Kemba Walker in Irving’s stead. Team chemistry appears to have improved significantly, and coach Brad Stevens has helped Walker return to the All-Star game and Jayson Tatum make his first appearance in the big show, while leading Boston to a 38-16 record (including a recent eight-game win streak).

Though the Lakers missed out on signing priority head coach options Tyronn Lue and Monty Williams over the summer, their supposed “consolation” option Frank Vogel has impressed in his first season with the team. The Lakers have a 41-12 record, tops in the West thus far, and have been able to incorporate several mercurial veterans into an upbeat, defensive-oriented locker room atmosphere.

There are several contenders elsewhere in the NBA. Billy Donovan has helped take the Thunder to a surprisingly robust 33-22 record. Rick Carlisle has brought the Mavericks back to the thick of the playoff hunt with an identical record to the Thunder’s and helped Luka Doncic become a first-time All-Star starter. 35-year-old coach Taylor Jenkins has brought the young Grizzlies back to relevance after the team offloaded former franchise cornerstones Marc Gasol and Mike Conley in 2019.

Who do you think will walk away with Coach of the Year hardware in 2020? Let us know!

Atlantic Notes: Stevens, Fizdale, Load Management

Brad Stevens‘s new-look Celtics are off to their best start in his tenure as head coach, with a sterling 5-1 record. A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston opines that the Celtics’ winning ways are attributable to five key factors: an easy connection with new point guard Kemba Walker; strong second halves on offense and defense; a relative dearth of contract drama; no idle chatter of Stevens mulling a return to the NCAA; and Stevens’ willingness for self-reflection following the disappointment of the 2018/19 Celtics.

Here’s tonight’s full run-down of Atlantic notes:

  • Marc Berman of The New York Post posits that it’s way too early for Knicks head coach David Fizdale to be on the coaching hot seat. Though the Knicks are tied with the Zion Williamson-free Pelicans at a league-worst 1-6 record, Berman suggests that the front office duo of Knicks president Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry have saddled Fizdale with a head-scratching assortment of talent, heavy on mediocre frontcourt pieces but light on outside shooting or clutch end-of-game leadership.
  • In a piece for The Athletic, Frank Isola supports Fizdale’s staunch defense of playing promising Knicks rookie RJ Barrett extended minutes, an argument echoed by former Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy and by Barrett himself. “Has anyone stopped to consider that maybe by playing Barrett a lot of minutes David Fizdale is advancing Barrett’s career forward?,” Van Gundy said to Isola. “Is there anyone who really believes that the way you get better is by not playing and by not practicing?”
  • On the other side of the wins-losses spectrum, the Raptors appear to be taking a similar approach to the struggling Knicks when it comes to one hot-button health topic. “I don’t really see much point in (load management) right now for anyone we’ve got,” head coach Nick Nurse said on Monday, per Ryan Wolstat of The Toronto Sun.Kyle [Lowry] will be somebody maybe we do something with down the road, maybe Marc [Gasol] as well. But it’s not really in the forefront of my mind this year like it was last year.” The Raptors famously conserved the play of eventual Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard last season. 33-year-old Lowry is currently leading the league with a heavy 38.8 minutes played per game, while backcourt mate Fred VanVleet is logging 37.8 minutes a night.

Raptors Notes: Siakam, Anunoby, Bench

Eric Koreen of The Athletic writes how the Raptors locking up Pascal Siakam to a long-term extension may be a byproduct of how the Spurs ended up losing Kawhi Leonard, the player that helped the Raptors win the franchise’s first ever championship last season.

Like Leonard when he was in San Antonio, Siakam was destined for a maximum contract after the Raptors won last season’s title. Like San Antonio had then, Toronto has plenty of cap space this upcoming summer.

Unlike the Spurs, the Raptors didn’t wait to lock up Siakam. As Koreen writes, they want him around and they want him happy. The long-term benefits outweigh the short term repercussion of less cap space.

There’s more this afternoon from Toronto:

  • Per Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun, forward OG Anunoby, in a rare podium session, says that he lost 15 pounds following the rupture of his appendix just as last season’s magical postseason run got underway.
  • Michael Grange of Rogers Sportsnet provides some more details on the incentives in the rookie-scale contract extension signed by Siakam, writing that the 25-year-old forward will receive a starting salary worth up to 30% of the cap (not the typical 25%) if he earns First or Second Team All-NBA or is named the MVP this season. That would make Siakam’s four-year extension worth as much as a projected $155.9MM instead of $129.9MM.
  • Head coach Nick Nurse still appears to be rather displeased with some of his newly-signed bench players, reports William Lou of Yahoo Sports Canada. Nurse lauded Stanley Johnson for his defense and effort and Matt Thomas for his offense, but seemed less than enthusiastic about the other side of the ball for both players.

World Cup Notes: Brown, Canada, Rubio

Jaylen Brown has stepped up for Team USA since Jayson Tatum went down with an ankle injury. The Celtics wing has played in the frontcourt for USA Basketball, excelling in an unfamiliar spot.

“I feel like I’m not a position player, I’m a basketball player. 4-3-2, whatever coach needs me to do, I will make the adjustment,” Brown said (via Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com). “Obviously with Jayson out, there’s a little more opportunity and maybe it was a little more visible. But every time I take the floor, I want to be aggressive.”

Here’s more from the FIBA World Cup:

  • Coach Nick Nurse doesn’t see many changes for the Canadian National Team next summer in the Olympics, as Michael Grange of Sportsnet relays. The team has a core of veteran players but could see prospects like RJ Barrett and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander break through next summer.
  • Thunder guard Dennis Schroder has impressed during international play, as Erik Horne of the Oklahoman writes. Germany was eliminated in the first round after losing its first two games by a total of six points, but the point guard helped the country win three consecutive games to close the tournament (the team’s final first-round game and two consolation contests).
  • Cody Cunningham of NBA.com breaks down Ricky Rubio‘s 2019 FIBA World Cup. The point guard has helped Spain reach the semi-finals.

Atlantic Notes: Scott, Knicks, Donaldson, Raptors Staff

The Sixers are investigating an altercation between forward Mike Scott and an Eagles fan outside of Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday, Enrico Campitelli of NBC Sports relays. Scott, who re-signed with the Sixers in July on a two-year contract, is a Washington Redskins fan and posted pictures of himself wearing a Redskins jersey on social media. The altercation was captured on video from at least two angles.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Former University of Minnesota guard Dupree McBrayer, ex-Georgetown guard Trey Dickerson and guard Pe’Shon Howard, who played for the Capital City Go Go last season, worked out for the Knicks and scrimmaged against their players Monday, Alex Kennedy of Hoops Hype tweets. Franklin “Frank Nitty” Session, who played for the Killer 3’s of the BIG3, was also involved in the scrimmage.  The Knicks have a two-way deal and Exhibit 10 contracts to offer, Kennedy notes.
  • New Raptors assistant coach Brittni Donaldson, who had been in the team’s front office, was originally hired by the organization after a stint with STATS LLC, as Zach Lowe of ESPN details. Donaldson made such a good impression analyzing the data and producing specific reports for NBA teams that the Raptors hired her. She will take the lead in translating analytic data for players and coaches but she’ll also scout opponents, debate rotations and X’s and O’s, and pitch strategic ideas, Lowe adds.
  • The Raptors officially announced the addition of 26-yard-old Donaldson as well as Jon Goodwillie to Nick Nurse’s staff in a team press release. Adrian Griffin, Sergio Scariolo, Nate Bjorkgren, Patrick Mutombo and Jim Sann are the staff holdovers. Additionally, John Corbacio has been promoted to head video coordinator/assistant coach while Tyler Marsh, Fabulous Flournoy and Mark Tyndale will serve as assistant video coordinators/player development coaches. Goodwillie had been the team’s video coordinator since 2011.

Atlantic Notes: Stevens, Feaster, Donaldson, Ainge

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens will have a new-look roster to work with this season, writes Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe, and while replacing All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving with fellow All-Star Kemba Walker will be the easy part, replacing defensive stalwarts Al Horford and Aron Baynes should prove a bit more challenging.

Another question is who starts — Gordon Hayward or Jaylen Brown? Do both of them start, with Marcus Smart back on the bench? According to Stevens, it really doesn’t matter, as long as the lineups mesh together.

“We’re obviously going to have to figure out lineups that work best together,” Stevens said. “Everybody is going to make a big deal over who starts, but we all know who the five guys are that are going to play the very most on our team, and everybody can probably write that down right now, and then it’s a matter of who fits best. They’re not all in the same position, but we’ve got to figure out who’s going to play the big spot and with which groups.”

Enes Kanter figures to get most minutes at center starting out, but young big Robert Williams could push for more playing time as the season progresses. The Celtics will also rely on Daniel Theis and Vincent Poirier for frontcourt depth.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • According to A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston, the Celtics have hired Allison Feaster as director of player development. Feaster is a former WNBA player and Harvard graduate who also worked in the G League.
  • Raptors data analyst Brittni Donaldson has been promoted to an assistant coach on the staff of head coach Nick Nurse, per a tweet from Stadium (Twitter link).
  • In a piece for NBC Sports Boston, Blakely writes that Danny Ainge is concerned with Stevens happiness this season, saying “My biggest concern through all of this was, I want my coach to be happy who he’s coaching and that’s the hardest job. I’ve been at this business a long time. It’s…you gotta have fun. You really have to have joy. That doesn’t mean every minute is going to be happy. Everybody is going to face adversity and challenges and trials through the course of a season. But, it still has to be fun.”

World Cup Notes: Nurse, Team USA, Mills, Scola

Team Canada coach Nick Nurse is frustrated by the lack of commitment from the nation’s top stars, according to a Canadian Press report (link via Sportsnet.ca). The Canadians had a disappointing performance in this year’s World Cup, being relegated to the classification round rather than fighting for a medal or an Olympic berth. Seventeen NBA players were invited to Canada’s training camp, but Cory Joseph and Khem Birch are the only ones representing the country in China.

“I see it as a really interesting unique time in Canada basketball,” Nurse said. “The talent’s really pouring out, the young talent continues to pour out, the Raptors had a pretty good season, the fan base, the people are interested all over the country in basketball, I think it’s an important time for a group of six, eight, 10 guys to stick together for five or six years.”

Eight of the 12 berths for next year’s Olympics will have been decided once the World Cup ends, leaving Canada with an uphill fight to qualify. They will have to win one of four second-chance tournaments next summer, but they’ll likely be given a low seed because they didn’t advance at the World Cup. Former Gonzaga star Kyle Wiltjer agrees that a unified effort is necessary.

“It’s building that cohesion, and even for myself as a player, I didn’t really know what to expect because we brought in a new coach and with that comes a new system,” he said, “and if we have to play next year guys like Cory, Khem, me, we know the system now, we feel comfortable in it.”

There’s more World Cup news to pass along:

  • Team USA had its best performance of the tournament in today’s win over Greece, and much of the credit should go to Gregg Popovich and his staff for devising a plan to control Giannis Antetokounmpo, writes Brian Windhorst of ESPN. Even though Antetokounmpo posted 15 points and 13 rebounds, he wasn’t the dominant force that Greece needed and wound up sitting out the entire fourth quarter to rest for Monday’s game. “Everything is always a compilation of experiences. Obviously we’ve seen him play, and he’s a great player,” Popovich said. “It’s a little bit of everything. Overall we did a good job of being active.”
  • Australia’s Patty Mills transforms from sixth man to superstar in international competition, writes Dan Devine of The Ringer. He’s the top scorer among teams that advanced past the first group stage.
  • Luis Scola, the last link to Argentina’s “golden generation,” has remained productive at age 39, Devine observes. Scola averaged 17 points and nine rebounds per game as Argentina cruised through Group B with a 3-0 record.