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Raptors coach Nick Nurse spoke of the new Raptors wings Wednesday with Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports and ripped into Johnson and Hollis-Jefferson for their defensive struggles.
“Those guys have not understood A) how hard we play, B) our schemes, that defense is a priority for them, etc. We’ve got some work to do with that crew. I tell them there’s a couple spots, come Tuesday night there’s a couple spots there open if somebody wants them. And I keep telling [them] show me you’re going to play defense, show me you’re going to play hard, show me you understand our coverages.
And then whatever you do on the other end you’re going to get opportunities just because of who you’re on the floor with and they’ll come to you, you don’t have to come down and occupy 95 percent of your mind with how you’re going to break down and get your next shot. It’s not going to get you on the floor right now. So we’ve got some work to do. We’ve got to find who’s going to blend in quickly defensively with this crew.”
Johnson and Hollis-Jefferson each signed short-term deals with the Raptors this summer. Johnson’s struggles defensively are a bit of a surprise because most of his struggles as a pro have come on the offensive end. A career 37.4 percent shooter, Johnson has been borderline unplayable offensively but has flashed some potential as an athletic wing.
Hollis-Jefferson also flashed some defensive potential during his four-year tenure with the Brooklyn Nets but fell out of favor last season. He was seen as an intriguing buy-low, but it’s clear Nurse has not been impressed with either young wing.
“These guys need to learn to play a little harder,” Nurse said. “They think they’re playing hard, but they need to play harder. That’s another thing we learned from two months in the playoffs, how hard to play.”
The Raptors need Johnson or Hollis-Jefferson to be a contributor because they don’t have much depth at the 3 behind OG Anunoby. Hollis-Jefferson also played the 4 in Brooklyn and could find himself getting some minutes behind Pascal Siakam if he picks things up.