Nurse wants Rap­tors to be open-minded

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - SPORTS -

TORONTO Ma­sai Ujiri was play­ing for the Derby Storm of the Bri­tish Basketball League against a tough Birm­ing­ham Bul­lets team coached by a 20-some­thing Nick Nurse.

It was 1995 and the first meet­ing be­tween the now-toronto Rap­tors pres­i­dent and his new head coach and Ujiri said he was im­pressed by Nurse even then.

“His teams were tough,” Ujiri said Thurs­day as the Rap­tors in­tro­duced Nurse as the team’s ninth head coach. “There was al­ways some­thing about the Birm­ing­ham team that was dif­fer­ent from the whole league. Peo­ple talked about them that way.”

The 50-year-old Nurse re­places his for­mer boss Dwane Casey, who was fired af­ter the Rap­tors were swept by Cleve­land in the sec­ond round of the play­offs.

The Rap­tors rode a re­vamped of­fen­sive style to a fran­chise-best 59 wins and the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Con­fer­ence. But they ran into a road­block in Cleve­land’s Lebron James for a third con­sec­u­tive sea­son. Nurse will be tasked will tak­ing them one step fur­ther.

Much has been made of Nurse’s coach­ing cre­ativ­ity and an abil­ity to think out­side the box. Nurse said he has spo­ken to most of the team al­ready about be­ing open­minded head­ing into next sea­son.

Nurse be­lieves Cleve­land was beat­able in the post-sea­son and had Game 1 gone their way, the con­fer­ence semi­fi­nal might have been a dif­fer­ent se­ries.

But while the Rap­tors’ of­fence held up in the play­offs, Nurse said the team’s de­fence wasn’t good enough.

“It all comes down to putting the play­ers in the best po­si­tion they can be (to be) suc­cess­ful and that in­cludes de­fence.”

Nurse posted a 183-117 (.610) reg­u­lar-sea­son record in the Gleague, where he won coach of the year with the Iowa En­ergy and two league ti­tles, one with the En­ergy and another with the Rio Grande Val­ley Vipers.

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