Nurse: This is a historic opportunity to bring lasting change.

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TORONTO – The Toronto Raptors could finally have a chance to resume defense for the title if the NBA restarts in Orlando next month.

But coach Nick Nurse said that since the death of George Floyd two weeks ago and that global protests against racism have sparked, basketball has been the last thing on the minds of his coaches and players.

“Everyone sort of raised their hands and said we all need to do better, we all need to make it a focal point, we all need a bigger role,” said the nurse during the meeting. a conference call Tuesday. “The last 10 days, two weeks have been almost constant discussion. ”

The nurse was one of the head coaches of the league who participated in a Zoom call on Saturday. A subcommittee including Lloyd Pierce, Gregg Popovich, Steve Kerr, David Fizdale and Stan Van Gundy was then formed to determine some action plans.

“There is a historic opportunity to make lasting change and I think we all need to be part of it,” said Nurse.

The coach said the team had thoughtful discussions that led to a deeper understanding and “maybe even closeness between our staff and our players.”

“There were several personal examples that the guys may not have shared with their teammates or with me, and I guess when it comes close to home, these guys talk about being arrested by the police and the the way they were treated for a reason they hadn’t really talked about before, “he said.

Several players have posted photos and videos on social media of the Black Lives Matter weekend protests they attended, including Kyle Lowry, one of the massive crowds in his hometown of Philadelphia.

“He is certainly one of the stars of the league and of our team, so his profile and platform are huge,” said Nurse. “I certainly know it is something that is very close to his heart. . . I congratulate him. I think he’s a great leader, I think he’s a great example to the players in the league, I think he’s a great example to his own kids, he is a great example to our team. ”

the Raptors finished second at the Eastern Conference at 46-18 when COVID-19 forced the league to close on March 11.

The league is tentatively expected to restart on July 31 with 22 teams based at Disney World. Each team would play eight games to determine the playoff standings, which would see a traditional seven game streak. The final will be held in October.

As players must report to teams by June 21, the nurse said it was not clear where Raptors will meet.

“We sort of thought about several scenarios and went through each of them, we didn’t really make a final decision as to when the next meeting should be, where we are going, or anything stuff like that, “said the nurse. “We have made plans on both sides of the border.”

He said the key to coaching will be flexibility. And he said it was important for the team to maintain a positive attitude.

“It will probably feel different from what you expected and then you will have to start making adjustments.” Your everyday attitude is going to be tested in a different way, so how are you going to be able – for lack of a better word – to keep people from complaining? “Man, it’s too hot, it’s sunny” or “It’s too cold, air conditioning”, whatever.

“You are going to have to try to keep an extra-positive attitude for beginners, and you are going to have to go with the flow and understand that it will be different. ”

The nurse said that the Raptors are fortunate to be both a good team at home and on the road, so they should also be “good in neutral”.

“This team likes to play, we like to compete, we like to try to understand things, and at the end of the day, everything that happens when you finally get there and the ball goes up, can you focus on the laser and get the job at hand? ”

The nurse said that although there was little talk of playing, he was confident that his players were in good shape. There were weekly weigh-ins and no “red flags”. There was a photo of a cropped Marc Gasol recently browsing social media, and Nurse said Gasol’s face looked thin on Zoom calls.

“I think he and Kyle look good,” he said.

Gasol had only played 36 games this season due to a persistent hamstring injury. It is one of the keys Raptors players to miss important pieces of this season.

The nurse is anxious to find a healthy Gasol.

“It is a huge pillar at both ends. He’s back on defense to steer traffic, protect the rim, talk, get the guys through the screens. He just does everything there on the defense and most of it is with his experience and IQ, “said the coach.

“I would add that too – I think Marc (being), so this year has really made Serge (Ibaka) play much better. Serge has been better, he has improved, he has more opportunities, so I think that will only help us. ”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on June 9, 2020.

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