Raptors’ Nurse: Need time to ‘reflect’ after season

PHILADELPHIA — After 10 years in Toronto as an assistant and a head coach, Nick Nurse said Friday he will “take a few weeks to see where I’m at” at the conclusion of what he called “a difficult season from a number of standpoints.”

“Early on, had some pretty serious injuries with some key guys,” Nurse said before his Raptors took on the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center. “I thought we kind of weathered that for a while … and then yeah, I think the trade deadline stuff, I don’t know if there was a thousand rumors, 999 of them were about us, it seemed like. So that was probably as interesting as it gets.”

Nurse, when asked where his head is at, said he is primarily focused on two things.

“First of all, I think when this season gets done, we’ll evaluate everything, and even personally, I’m going to take a few weeks to see where I’m at, you know?” Nurse said. “Like you said, where my head’s at. And just see how the relationship with the organization is and everything. It’s been 10 years for me now, which is a pretty good run. I don’t know, over those 10 years we got to be up there in number of wins with anybody in the league. I don’t even know where that is, but we’ve had a lot of big seasons.

“And then, right now, my head is to make this as long of a season as possible. This team needs playoff experience. So that is where I’m at right now … finish out these six, see where we land, see if we can’t creep up a spot or two in the standings, and then give them hell in the playoffs, see if we can get in a real series and take it from there.”

When asked if that meant Nurse had considered his future being somewhere other than Toronto after this season, he said he had not.

“No,” he said. “I’m concentrated on this job, for sure, and this game, essentially. But I think 10 years is a good time to sit back and reflect a little bit. So I think we’re going to do that all when the season ends.”

Nurse, 55, has been the Raptors’ head coach since the start of the 2018-19 season and was an assistant under Dwane Casey with the franchise for five years before that.

Since he took over, Nurse has gone 224-160 as head coach of the Raptors, leading them to the 2019 NBA championship in his first season. The team has made the playoffs in three out of his four seasons.

The Raptors are seventh in the NBA in wins over that span, and second behind the Golden State Warriors since the start of the 2013-14 season.

This season, Toronto hovered around .500 through the first two months of the season before going 10-18 from Dec. 9 through Feb. 1.

Since then, however, the Raptors entered Friday’s game having gone 15-8 — including posting the league’s third-best defensive rating over that span — and are in a tie with the Atlanta Hawks for eighth place in the Eastern Conference standings. That stretch also coincided with Toronto acquiring center Jakob Poeltl — whom the team had sent to the San Antonio Spurs in the Kawhi Leonard trade in the summer of 2018 — back from San Antonio at the deadline to give them some needed bulk in the paint.

“My background and training is a lot of people coming and going, minor leagues and Europe and stuff, and basically you got to go in and put a good, solid day’s work in no matter what’s happening, and put a great game plan together and try to get the guys to execute it and just stick with that,” Nurse said, when asked why things have turned around. “You just stick with that and stick with that and you show the positives, stay positive, show the teaching, really keep showing the teaching of what we can do better, and we’ve got a little healthier, we got a little more connected, played a little harder, starting to make more shots, all those things add up, because there’s a lot of really close losses in there, too.

“So we’re not a million miles away. So shape up a few things, polish up a few things and go from there.”

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