Cramming: Raptors coach Nick Nurse spending down time catching up on film
Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse smiles courtside during second half NBA basketball action against the Washington Wizards, in Toronto, Friday, Jan. 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston
Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press
Published Sunday, July 19, 2020 9:12PM EDT
While fishing and golfing have occupied the free time of many NBA players at Walt Disney World, Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse hasn't ventured far from his gym or his hotel room.
Less than a week away from playing their first real basketball in more than four months, Nurse is spending most of his down time studying game film.
“I've been just been trying to get back to speed, concentrating on players, watching a lot of tape,” Nurse said after Sunday's practice. “I didn't watch a ton during the pandemic, to be honest with you. I'm one of those people that starts their paper for college about three days before it's due. So I'm watching a lot more tape now that the games are approaching.”
The Raptors play the Houston Rockets on Friday in their first of three scrimmages, and their first real action since their last game March 9 in Utah before the NBA shuttered two days later because of COVID-19. The Raptors open the eight-game seeding round versus the Los Angeles Lakers on Aug. 1.
It wasn't just players who gathered rust during the four-month hiatus, Nurse said he likely did as well.
“I think that it's just when you realize you need a timeout, the fluidity with which you're drawing plays on the board, maybe, just any in-game, quick adjustments and things like that,” Nurse said. “It does take a little bit to get into the flow of that.”
A basketball restart after a four-month layoff is unprecedented, and so the NBA has tweaked the rules for the first exhibition game for each team, going with 10-minute quarters instead of the regulation 12 minutes per quarter, according to an Associated Press report.
Miami's Erik Spoelstra planned to take a collaborative approach to the scrimmages - he was speaking with coaches from the Heat's two opponents Sacramento and Utah to see if there were any specific situations the teams wanted to work on in the games.
Nurse smiled on Sunday's Zoom video call when asked about approaching the games differently.
“I don't know. I'm more inclined to just let them play as normal. I think that I was only smiling when you asked that question because it seems there's always when you go into scrimmage games there's always the same question: Do you want us to run certain stuff, or see certain things, and should we play five quarters, since we're here for a scrimmage we can play longer,” Nurse said.
“Those things always are the same. I'm on the side of let's just play.”
Walt Disney World is the temporary home to 22 teams, housed in three resort hotels. Pascal Siakam said the NBA campus setup has the feel of training camp.
“It's similar in the way that you're all walking through the same room,” he said. “It's exciting, obviously. Probably not where we want to be, but I think it's important that we're all here and everyone is willing to go out there every single day and play hard and compete at a high level. You know, we're going to get it back as we go.”
The Raptors went for a home-away-from-home feel in Florida, decorating the team's hotel room floor with “We the North” banners. There's a huge mural of the Toronto skyline. Both president Masai Ujiri and general manager Bobby Webster are with the team in the bubble, which Siakam said “shows commitment.”
“Obviously having them there is kind of what we're used to. It feels good to have them,” he said. “Obviously we have people that, when things are not going how we want to, we can turn to, and they're there to make sure that everything fine.”
Practice times have been all over the map. While the Raptors were mostly scheduled for mornings this past week, they switch to mostly even practices in the final days before the scrimmages tip off.
Matt Thomas, a creature of habit, finds the constantly changing schedule a bit discombobulating.
“I was talking to a friend about that the other day - it is hard to get into a routine down here because all the facilities are different, we're practising at different times every single day, depending on what time our coronavirus test is -you have that scheduled during the day at some point as well,” the three-point specialist said.
Nurse and the Raptors have said from the beginning that success will come from being adaptable. Thomas echoed that.
“That's going to be how the remainder of the season is, you know?” he said. “These are obviously unprecedented times for everybody so I wouldn't expect anything less, and I'm just going to take it upon myself and our team to just kind of roll with the punches, take things one day at a time and just do our best to find some type of routine.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on July 19, 2020.