Raptors’ mad scientist isn’t done just yet


Nick Nurse always has prided himself on being adaptable.

He’s not afraid to try something new, and he’s not afraid to change something when need be.

With the return of most of his 2018-19 championship team this season, the thought was that less experimentation would be needed.

Nurse, though, said the opposite was true.

“With the two guys missing (Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green) that throws us into experimenting mode, a little bit,” Nurse said. “I can see us playing as small as Kyle (Lowry), Fred (VanVleet), Norm (Powell), and I can see us playing as big as Kyle (Lowry), OG (Anunoby), Serge (Ibaka),  Pascal (Siakam)  and Marc (Gasol). That’s quite a disparity there.”

“So I think there’s going to be some experimentation there,” Nurse said. “I’m really looking forward to seeing Pascal-Serge-Marc as soon as possible because I think that’s something we could end up using a lot. I’m always trying to get our best players on the floor and those guys are three of our best players, so we need to try and find a home for them, and a rhythm offensively and the spacing offensively, etc. But I think we can do that.”


A coaching staff can only yell and cajole so much. At some point, the players have to police themselves, get themselves properly motivated. In that regard, Lowry’s return to practice after a mostly inactive pre-season to date was a blessing.

“He’s an influential guy in a lot of ways,” Nurse said of the clear-cut leader in the dressing room. “Comes out today and adds a level of competitiveness to (practice), leadership. You need that. We’ve got a lot of new faces and a lot of young guys running around and his vocal-ness today put them in the right places, maybe in the right mindset a little bit.

“It’s good, it’s needed, it’s kind of a nice infusion of that today,” Nurse said.


Leonard left behind more than just the concept of load management, but moving into the new season, that was one of the topics of the day. With his departure, have we seen the last of load management?

Turns out the answer is no.

“We have a couple of guys, Marc (Gasol) and his long season, and Kyle (Lowry) heading into his 14th or 15th season, that it makes sense to load manage those guys a little bit,” Nurse said. “I’d say the rest of them are probably okay to go. They’re awful young and still have a lot of juice in those legs. Those two guys, we might load manage a little bit.”

Gasol, in particular, is coming off a full calendar year with little to no break. He began the 2018-19 season with the Memphis Grizzlies, was traded to Toronto at the trade deadline, and then played right into June in that memorable championship run. Gasol made a name for himself in the parade, but less than a week later was in Spain heading up Sergio Scariolo’s eventual FIBA-winning entry. Another parade — and a visit with Spanish royalty — later, and Gasol was on another plane heading back to Toronto. At 34, he’s a year older than Lowry. Expect to see both get the load management treatment, although we would be surprised if it were as extensive as the treatment Leonard got a year ago.


By the time the Raptors open their defence of the 2018-19 championship, most of them will have played a total of three pre-season games. Even two years ago, that would have seemed to be dreadfully inadequate, but the times are changing fast and the pre-season is not what it once was.

Toronto, as a team, will actually play four pre-season games, but with almost every regular held out of Sunday’s poorly scheduled evening run with the Chicago Bulls just two days after returning from Japan, that particular game hardly counts.

Don’t count VanVleet as one of those who believe the lack of pre-season action could be a detriment.

He believes those games are a poor comparison to the real thing.

“The officiating’s not the same, the intensity’s not the same, the physicality is not the same. It’s not the same,” VanVleet said when asked if three games would be enough. “Until we get out there, travel, start off with the back to back after Tuesday, you get that type of feel, then you’re in the mode and you see from there.”


When you’ve climbed to the top of Everest, how do you find the motivation to ascend that next mountain? If you are the Raptors, you simply turn the page on the accomplishment and focus on the next task.

VanVleet almost laughed at one questioner Tuesday when he was asked how long it took him to come down from the high of winning his first NBA title.

“It’s a balance,” he said. “It’s not like we went on a three-month bender. It was about 10 days for me. You come back to earth. You carry it with you. It doesn’t leave you.”

But clearly the want to do it again remains very strong.

“I worked harder this summer after last year,” he said. “It’s not impossible to be proud of the moment, be happy with what we accomplished, and still not be satisfied. Your life or your career doesn’t end after you win a championship.”

Lowry had a similar take on the same question.

“You think anyone on this team is not motivated?” Lowry asked. “We’ve all got something to prove every single night we step out there.  That’s one thing I can tell you has remained consistent since I’ve been here — everyone always has something to prove.

“So why not try to get back there, right?” he said. “You don’t want to say: ‘Well, I got there once.’ You want to continue to try and get back there every single year.”


Patrick McCaw, who could wind up the third point guard on this team by Tuesday, sat out practice Tuesday after slightly twisting his knee Sunday in Toronto’s exhibition loss to Chicago. Nurse said he was not overly concerned for McCaw and said he expected him back on the floor Wednesday.