Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse is still taking time to “decompress” after a strange NBA season that started with a championship banner raising at Scotiabank Arena, was interrupted by months by the COVID-19 pandemic and ended with a tough second-round exit in an empty arena at the hands of the Boston Celtics.
When the time comes to start ramping up for the next NBA season, whenever that may be, Nurse says he and his staff will be ready.
“We’re still fresh off the season. We’re certainly in decompress mode right now. It was a little more stressful maybe,” Nurse said Thursday on a video conference. “We do need a little more time to put that season behind us. So we’ll do that now and wait until we hear what the information will be as far as going forward.”
Regardless, Nurse doesn’t expect his off-season preparations to look all that different from what has worked for him in the past.
“I would say that as soon as we find out a start date for next season, we’ll kind of plot in everything retroactively like we would have. We’d have a three-week training camp, so we’ll have a three-week training camp. We’ll have maybe three weeks of pre-season and voluntary workouts prior to that three weeks like we would have had normally.”
Nurse spoke to reporters for the first time since leaving the NBA’s bubble at Walt Disney World after the Raptors were edged by the Celtics in a tough seven-game series, ending Toronto’s spirited title defence in a unique season.
WATCH | Raptors eliminated by Celtics in Game 7:
Since that time, the NBA’s reigning coach of the year signed a multi-year contract extension with Toronto, a priority for the team after Nurse led the Raptors to a title in his rookie season and to a 53-19 regular-season record this campaign despite losing superstar Kawhi Leonard to free agency and dealing with a host of injuries to key players.
“I’ve loved being here, loved the job, and there’s nothing not to love man,” Nurse said. “It was time to renew a contract, and that’s what we did. It was really easy.”
Locking up Nurse, however, is just one of many objectives the Raptors hope to meet over a busy off-season. Two enormous parts of Toronto’s vaunted front office — president Masai Ujiri and general manager Bobby Webster — are also entering the final year of their contracts.
“There’s a little concern,” Nurse said. “I never was concerned that they were not going to get a deal done for me, I hope I feel the same about Bobby and the same for Masai.
Toronto’s roster could look quite different next season too with several players entering free agency. Star guard Fred VanVleet is set to become a restricted free agent, while big men Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol will be unrestricted.
Nurse said exit interviews with the Raptors after the Boston series were “a little tricky.”
“I think you’ve got a combination of a lot of things that felt different,” he said. “You just got knocked out in a tough, tough series. Everybody’s on the move trying to get out of that bubble very quickly, that was kind of a strange [feeling].”
Still, he said conversations with the players were positive.
“All the guys love to be here, want to be here and continue to be here,” he said. “As uncomfortable as it was, it was still very pleasant conversations. I think there’s a high level of gratitude for what they’ve done, I think there’s a high level of gratitude from them for what we’ve done. I think there’s a high level of respect for what these guys have done for this organization as well.”
Nurse’s coaching staff could undergo a change as well. Assistant coach Nate Bjorkgren has interviewed for the head coach position with the Indiana Pacers, and Adrian Griffin could be a candidate for a head coaching job.
“When you have a successful organization, people are going to look at them and see if there’s some people they can pick off,” Nurse said. “My thing, from a player standpoint and from a staff standpoint, I’m always trying to help everybody reach their ultimate goals.
“I’ll do everything I can to help those guys. I’ve always tried to promote them. I’ve always told you guys I think all three of our front-of-the-bench guys are head coaching material, and there’s some guys behind the bench that are going to come that way soon too.”
Nurse also said Scotiabank Arena will be open next week for U.S citizens in Canada to register to vote in the upcoming U.S. election. Nurse has been a vocal proponent of getting more Canadian-based Americans to cast their ballots.