Nick Nurse

Raptors Notes: Boucher, Roster, Nurse, Tax

After missing the entire preseason due to a dislocated finger, Raptors big man Chris Boucher has been cleared to return for the team’s regular season opener, writes Lori Ewing of The Canadian Press (link via The Toronto Star).

Boucher had a breakout year in 2020/21, averaging 13.6 PPG, 6.7 RPG, and 1.9 BPG in 60 games (24.2 MPG). He’s expected to once again play a regular role in the Raptors’ frontcourt this season before becoming eligible for unrestricted free agency in 2022.

“My whole career, my whole time in Toronto, nothing has been promised … I had to work for everything, I see it the same way this year,” Boucher said of his mindset in a contract year, per Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca (Twitter link). “… At the end of the day I gotta be consistent, that’s the one remaining thing I gotta focus on.”

Here’s more on the Raptors:

  • Toronto’s roster, which is heavy on long, versatile forwards, is unlikely any group the franchise has put together in its 27 years of existence, opines Doug Smith of The Toronto Star. As Smith observes, 11 of the Raptors’ 15 players on standard contracts have listed heights of at least 6’7″, but none are taller than 6’9″.
  • Having lost veteran leaders like Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry, and Marc Gasol in recent years, head coach Nick Nurse will be tasked with leading a less experienced group this season, Smith writes for The Toronto Star. While Nurse adjusts his style to accommodate the new-look roster, Fred VanVleet says he’s helping the newcomers adapt to Nurse’s outside-the-box approach to coaching. “He’s a little weird at times, but he won us a championship, so he knows what he’s doing,” VanVleet said.
  • Following the Raptors’ roster cuts on the weekend, Blake Murphy of Sportsnet.ca took an in-depth look at the team’s cap and tax situation and which recently-waived players are – or aren’t – expected to play in the G League with the Raptors 905. Toronto’s team salary is currently above the luxury tax line, but the club still has the flexibility to duck below that line after pushing back the salary guarantee dates for Sam Dekker and Isaac Bonga.

Nate Bjorkgren Back With Raptors As Assistant

The Raptors are listing Nate Bjorkgren as an assistant coach, Blake Murphy of Sportsnet.ca tweets.

Bjorkgren was at Toronto’s training camp as a consultant and it seems the club has rehired him in his previous capacity. Bjorkgren was on Nick Nurse’s staff until he was hired as the Pacers’ head coach prior to last season. His tumultuous one-year stint ended in June when the team fired him.

Bjorkgren reportedly had major communication issues with players and coaches alike in Indiana and the front office opted to bring back Rick Carlisle for a second stint. Bjorkgren had one more guaranteed year on his contract.

He was an assistant on Nurse’s Team Canada staff this summer.

And-Ones: Redick, Ball, Bates, Nurse

J.J. Redick, who finished last year on the Mavericks after being traded from the Pelicans, has no plans to sign a deal before training camp, he said on a recent episode of his podcast The Old Man And The Three.

You know, I would say, pretty much definitively, like, I won’t be in a training camp to start the season,” he said. “That’s not gonna happen. So, you know, I’ll join a team at some point this season and finish the year and try to go get a chip. That’s the plan.”

Redick was vocally unhappy with what he felt were broken promises by Pelicans executive vice president David Griffin, which may have contributed to his desire to take his time in finding a new team.

We have more news from around the basketball world:

  • LiAngelo Ball feels that he proved his worth with the Hornets’ Summer League team, writes Roderick Boone of Sports Illustrated. “I feel like I belong in the league, but I know I can show more than what I did,” Ball said. “I’m not satisfied with how I played this last game, but overall it was all right.” Ball started hot in his first game, but ended up shooting 37.5% from three with more turnovers than assists. ESPN’s Jordan Schultz quotes Hornets’ assistant Jay Triano as saying: “Great kid. Love him. He was at the facility practicing everyday for two months to play in the Summer League. Shows a ton of character.”
  • High school basketball phenomenon Emoni Bates said that the fame of being on the Sports Illustrated cover – and generally being considered the top young prospect in the country from age 15 – was “fun at first,” but soon grew irritating, writes Jeff Goodman of Stadium. “The things people say definitely affect me,” Bates said. “People don’t really know me. If people knew who I really was, I don’t think they’d be saying some of the things they say.” Bates admits that he considered quitting, but said that he has finally gotten back to enjoying the game.
  • Nick Nurse will remain in his role as Team Canada’s head coach during the lead-up to the 2024 Olympics, writes Michael Grange of Sportsnet. Nurse is hoping he can recruit the best of Canada’s deep crop of talented players to join him over the next three years. Grange writes that Nurse wants a core group to train next summer and be ready for the World Cup qualifiers in June and August.

Raptors Notes: Ujiri, Nurse, Second-Round Picks

There are positive signs that Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri plans to sign an extension, Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca reports. He’s conducting business as usual, focusing on the draft and free agency. A player agent told Grange “he’s coming back” and another source at the recent combine said Ujiri was acting as if he’s “on a mission to win another title.”

Ujiri is technically a free agent this summer and there are still some concerns another franchise, such as the Clippers, could swoop in at the last minute and try to woo him away. But for now a return to the Raptors is expected.

We have more on the Raptors:

  • Coach Nick Nurse’s former agent has filed a civil lawsuit against him, claiming breach of contract, according to Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. Warren LeGarie is seeking financial relief, claiming he had a contract with Nurse through the 2023/24 season. Nurse, who is now represented by Andy Miller, agreed to a contract extension in September. According to the suit, Nurse’s salary for this season was readjusted to the $6-8MM range and the four-year extension was worth $32MM. LeGarie is seeking a commission for the portion of the contract he claims he negotiated.
  • The team owns the No. 46 and 47 overall picks in this month’s draft and Blake Murphy of The Athletic examines six wing players it could take with those second-round selections. The group includes Michigan State’s Aaron Henry and Florida’s Scottie Lewis.
  • In case you missed it, Murphy examined the logistics this week of a potential trade with the Warriors involving Pascal Siakam.

Atlantic Notes: Durant, Udoka, Sixers, Nurse

Kevin Durant proved he’s still an elite player after his long absence following Achilles surgery, but he won’t hold fond memories of this season because of the way it ended, writes Brian Lewis of the New York Post. The Nets went through an epic second-round battle with the Bucks before falling in overtime of Game 7, and Durant said on his “Boardroom: Out of Office” podcast that the disappointment overshadows everything else.

“I’m getting so many congratulations now: I didn’t do anything. We lost,” he said. “I knew I could play, I knew I was nice. I’ve scored 48 before. I had big games before, I made big shots before. So it didn’t feel like anything special to me, because we lost.”

Durant deserves credit for changing the culture around the franchise, Lewis adds. His decision to join the team as a free agent in 2019, along with Kyrie Irving, instantly made Brooklyn one of the glamor spots in the NBA. The addition of James Harden in a January trade turned the Nets into title favorites, maybe for several years.

“Just the camaraderie we built with the fans. The culture we kind of built around Barclays and just Nets culture in general,” Durant said. “People kind of look at the Nets now and like, ‘All right, they can be contenders next year.’ I like that part of it. I was excited about that going forward. I was excited about that even in the regular season. It felt pretty solid to start to build a culture. I feel like a lot Nets fans feel like, ‘Yo, we got a chance.’ To make some noise next year.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Ime Udoka‘s duties with Team USA in the Olympics may prevent him from coaching the Celtics‘ Summer League squad, according to Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. New head coaches often handle Summer League teams, but the gold medal game in Tokyo is set for August 7, a day before the start of play in Las Vegas. Himmelsbach expects Romeo Langford, Payton Pritchard and Aaron Nesmith to all be part of Boston’s contingent, along with Moses Brown, who was acquired from the Thunder in a trade last month.
  • The quick turnarounds by the Suns and Hawks, who both missed the playoffs last season, shows that teams don’t need to go through years of losing like the Sixers did with “The Process,” argues Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer.
  • Raptors coach Nick Nurse isn’t sure of his future as head coach of the Canadian national team, tweets Blake Murphy of The Athletic. Canada will miss the Olympics after falling to the Czech Republic in a qualifying tournament Saturday. “I love coaching and I love coaching this team, and Toronto, and I’m just trying to help basketball grow,” Nurse said. “… I just want this team to be as good as it can possibly be.”

Rosters Announced For Olympic Qualifying Tournaments

Four qualifying tournaments to determine the final four teams in the men’s basketball pool at the Tokyo Olympics are set to tip off on Tuesday. In advance of the Olympic qualifiers, the 24 teams involved have officially set their 12-man rosters, according to a press release from FIBA.

More than two dozen current NBA players are participating in the tournament, and 11 of the 24 teams competing for Olympic spots have at least one current NBA players on their respective rosters. Of those clubs, Team Canada has the biggest contingent of NBA players — eight of the 12 players on Nick Nurse‘s squad finished the season on an NBA roster. Turkey is next with four NBA players.

The four qualifying tournaments will take place in Serbia, Lithuania, Croatia, and Canada. Only the winner of each six-team group will advance to Tokyo. Those four winners will join Japan, Nigeria, Argentina, Iran, France, Spain, Australia, and the U.S. in the 12-team Olympic tournament.

The teams that move onto the Olympics may tweak their rosters for Tokyo, depending on the availability of certain players. For instance, if Greece were to win its qualifying tournament, perhaps Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo – who remains active in the playoffs for now – would make an effort to join the team in Tokyo next month.

Here are the NBA players on the OQT rosters:

Belgrade, Serbia

Kaunas, Lithuania

Split, Croatia

Victoria, Canada

There are also many former NBA players among the 24 rosters, including Mario Hezonja (Croatia), Milos Teodosic (Serbia), Jan Vesely (Czech Republic), Timofey Mozgov (Russia), and Anthony Bennett (Canada).

To view the full rosters, be sure to visit FIBA’s official site and click through to each team from there.

Olympic Notes: Butler, Olynyk, Birch, Bjorkgren, Jokic, Australia

Jimmy Butler will not play for Team USA at the Tokyo Olympics, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel tweets. Butler had an invite but he battled through a variety of ailments this season and had a short turnaround between seasons after Miami surprisingly reached the NBA Finals last summer.

We have more info on this year’s Olympics:

  • The Rockets’ Kelly Olynyk and Raptors’ Khem Birch are among the prominent players not listed among the 24 players Team Canada submitted to FIBA in advance of its Olympic qualifier, Michael Grange of Rogers Sportsnet tweets. They’re both unrestricted free agents. The Grizzlies’ Brandon Clarke is also not on the preliminary list, Blake Murphy of The Athletic tweets. The 24-man roster can be found here.
  • Nate Bjorkgren, who was let go by the Pacers after one season as head coach, will join Nick Nurse’s Team Canada staff, Marc Stein of the New York Times tweets. Bjorkgren was one of Nurse’s top assistants before his stint with Indiana.
  • MVP Nikola Jokic won’t play for the Serbian team at the Olympic qualifier due to an exhausting NBA campaign, according to Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Jokic told Serbian news agency Tanjug, “Simply, the condition of my body requires a longer absence from the court for recovery.” The Denver Post story asserts Jokic won’t play in the Olympics even if his national team qualifies, while an ESPN story says it’s unclear if Jokic would participate in Tokyo.
  • The Australian national team will play exhibitions against Team USA, Nigeria and Argentina in Las Vegas before departing for Tokyo, David Aldridge of The Athletic tweets. The 19-man preliminary roster, which will be trimmed to 12, is expected to be loaded with NBA players, including Ben Simmons and Joe Ingles.

Atlantic Notes: Nets, Rose, Raptors, Garnett, Celtics

The Nets expect to have Kyrie Irving, James Harden and Kevin Durant all available for just the eighth time on Saturday, Malika Andrews of ESPN writes. Brooklyn will host Chicago in its second-to-last game of the season.

“If everything stays the same, those three will play tomorrow,” head coach Steve Nash said after the team’s practice on Friday.

Despite coping with injuries this season, Brooklyn still holds the second-best record in the East at 46-24. The team has struggled to build on-court chemistry due to inconsistent lineups — though it appears to be regaining health just in time for the playoffs.

“I’m just happy they are on the floor,” forward Jeff Green said of his team’s big-three. “We’re getting to finally try to create a rhythm with all guys healthy. We’ll see what happens from there. We have a long week to prepare for whomever we play. For those guys, it will be good. For us, it will be good to get a look and see where we are at when everybody is healthy.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division today:

  • Knicks guard Derrick Rose missed Thursday’s contest against the Spurs due to a minor ankle injury, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. “Just needed a day,’’ head coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We knew we were getting a couple of guys (Immanuel Quickley and Alec Burks) back so we thought it would be good to give him the rest.’’
  • The Raptors will look to add to Nick Nurse‘s staff this summer with former assistants Nate Bjorkgren and Chris Finch gone, Blake Murphy of The Athletic tweets. Bjorkgren has since joined the Pacers as head coach, while Finch has become head coach of the Timberwolves.
  • Celtics legend Kevin Garnett wishes that he joined the team sooner, he said during his Hall of Fame induction speech on Friday. “My only regret in any of this was that I should have came to Boston a little earlier. Other than that, it was magical,” Garnett said, as relayed by Taylor Snow of Celtics.com (video link). Garnett ultimately joined the team via trade in July of 2007.

Raptors Notes: Tampa, Tanking, Ibaka, Ujiri

Some Raptors players and staff members are eager to see their one-season experiment in Tampa come to an end, sources tell Josh Lewenberg of TSN.

The Florida city served as a temporary home as restrictions on traveling to Canada due to COVID-19 made it impossible for the team to play at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto. Crowd sizes in Tampa have been limited, and the Raptors have suffered through a forgettable season that featured a virus outbreak, a 1-13 stretch in March and virtually no chance to qualify for a play-in game heading into the season’s final week.

Toronto’s front office and coaching staff have shown for some time that they intended to prioritize player development and evaluation over a chance to sneak into postseason, Lewenberg states. That’s why it wasn’t surprising to see Kyle Lowry and OG Anunoby held out of a crucial match-up with the Wizards on Thursday.

Lewenberg traces the disappointing year back to an offseason decision to prioritize financial flexibility over keeping big men Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol. The remaining frontcourt players weren’t able to match their production, which reduced the team’s chances to compete.

There’s more on the Raptors:

  • Even after the slide began, the team had too much talent on hand to make tanking a realistic option, Lewenberg contends in the same piece. There’s no reason to shut down productive young players like Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet or Anunoby, while sitting out Lowry after failing to trade him at the deadline wouldn’t have put the Raptors in position to get a top pick.
  • The unwillingness to give Ibaka a two-year contract played a significant role in sinking Toronto’s season, argues Dave Feschuk of The Toronto Star. The front office had an eye on the salary cap when it made a one-year offer to Ibaka, a move that Feschuk says shocked many Raptors players. Ibaka wound up going to the Clippers for $19MM over two years, while Toronto replaced him with Aron Baynes on a two-year, $14MM deal (with a non-guaranteed second year).
  • Michael Grange of Sportsnet calls on team president Masai Ujiri and general manager Bobby Webster to address the fanbase about the organization’s medium- and long-term goals. Grange notes that the Raptors have been making conflicting moves this season, with some designed to win now and others focused on the future. Coach Nick Nurse has been left to explain how the team fell from an NBA title to out of the playoffs in two seasons.

Raptors Notes: Lowry, Powell, Siakam, Nurse

After helping the Raptors snap their nine-game losing streak on Wednesday with a blowout win over Denver, veteran point guard Kyle Lowry admitted that it was a “weird” feeling not knowing if it was his last game with the franchise, writes Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca. Lowry is prepared for the possibility of being traded later today, on his 35th birthday.

“Whatever will be will be, honestly,” Lowry said, per Lewenberg. “That’s the truth.

“I don’t know (what I want to happen). I wish I could give you (an answer), but at the end of the day, I’m gonna (make) a decision and work it out and if something happens, it happens — if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. Everything happens for a reason. I personally, right now, I don’t really put too much thought into it. My agent is really good at his job and (is having) a lot of decisions, he’ll look at it and help facilitate that decision.”

According to Lewenberg, the odds of Lowry being traded seemed slim earlier this month. Sources tell TSN.ca that the Raptors were still telling teams last week that they didn’t intend to move him and that Lowry and his reps expected to finish the season with the club. That has changed in recent days, as Toronto has become more willing to listen to inquiries and offers for the six-time All-Star, who could be the biggest name on the move in the next seven hours.

Here’s more on the Raptors:

  • Norman Powell, the Raptors’ other top trade candidate, said that his preference would be to remain with Toronto, but he acknowledged that anything could happen, as Lewenberg relays. “My roots are here,” Powell said. “I’ve given everything to the franchise. Obviously I want to stay here. I’m not out looking for other teams to go play for. I’m solely focused on this season, being with the team and hopefully being able to finish out the season with them. But I understand that it’s a business.” Lewenberg and other reporters have suggested that Powell is very likely to be dealt today.
  • Appearing on ESPN’s Bart & Hahn Show (video link), Brian Windhorst said he believes the Raptors will essentially control the trade deadline, since Lowry and Powell are two of the top players available. Teams chasing one or both of those two may want resolution before moving onto other targets.
  • The Raptors’ dominant win over Denver on Wednesday showed how much upside the current group still has, but it was probably too little, too late to change the team’s approach to the deadline, writes Blake Murphy of The Athletic.
  • Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca provided some additional details on the confrontation between Pascal Siakam and head coach Nick Nurse that may result in a $50K fine for the Raptors forward. Grange describes Siakam’s outburst toward Nurse as one that crossed lines and included “words beyond standard cursing.” However, there’s no indication that it will lead to anything drastic involving Siakam at the trade deadline, Grange notes.
  • The Raptors denied a report that Siakam had been fined $50K, saying possible discipline was still being discussed internally. But since those team penalties aren’t made public, we may never know for sure whether or not Toronto fines Siakam, according to Grange, who says the club has concerns about the way the report on that fine and another recent Shams Charania report – which blamed a COVID-19 outbreak on the coaching staff not following proper masking guidelines – have surfaced.