Best of #AskNickNurse: Canada’s unity amid Raptors’ run was ‘amazing’

Toronto Raptors Head Coach Nick Nurse. (Frank Gunn/CP)

Without a 2020 first-round playoff matchup to prepare for, Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse spent Sunday night reliving the finale to 2019’s historic run.

Though the outcome was known, the ride to get there was no less thrilling. As it unfolded, Nurse engaged with fans in a Twitter Q&A run by the Raptors, delving into questions ranging from what it was like to win a championship with Canada’s team to his favourite songs to play on guitar and more.

Here are some of the most interesting topics covered during #AskNickNurse:

On winning a title with Canada’s team

Q: Hi Nick, how does it feel looking at Jurassic Park during these Finals?

Nurse: That’s been the most interesting part for me — to see the unbelievable response from around the country. You couldn’t sense it — being in the middle of it, you just couldn’t.

It’s made it feel even more huge for me. What a time.

Q: How did it feel to see all of Canada unite over the Raptors championship run?

Nurse: Hard to put into words — I’ll try one. Amazing.

Q: Throughout the playoffs did you ever let yourself imagine what a championship would be like?

Nurse: You go into camp thinking about that. We were focused on playin’ as well as we could and preparing as well as we could. I knew there’d be plenty of time to celebrate once the job was done.

I’m imagining what it’s going to feel like to win another one right now.

Q: Even though you guys won the championship on the road rather than at home, did it feel a little bit like home with all those Raptors fans in attendance?

Nurse: I don’t know if it felt like home, but it was great to have all the fans there, for sure.

I think we would have rather won it at home — but we’ll take this, for sure.

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On the 2019 performance and growth of the Raptors in 2020

Q: How impressed were you with Fred VanVleet’s growth in this playoffs, particularly in the Finals where he used the “box-and-one” defence and scored some critical baskets?

Nurse: His growth through the playoffs was astounding because he struggled early and we really needed his three-point shooting.

He was the obvious candidate for the box-and-one to chase (Steph) Curry around the court. He made some huge shots in that (fourth quarter).

Q: I would like to ask you about the impact of Marc Gasol in the game of the Raptors, what are the positive things he gives to the team?

Nurse: Marc is one of the best big men playing the game in the world — he’s a great defensive captain, protecting the paint, talking, communicating and he’s a great passer.

And Sergio Scariolo (assistant coach for the Raptors) isn’t bad either.

Q: Hey coach! Kyle’s dominant first quarter was legendary. What were your thoughts on the way he played (in Game 6)?

Nurse: Well, that 11-point flurry to start was incredible.

But I kind of sensed that he was ready to go for it in the locker room before the game. He was calm, but super-confident. I didn’t expect 11, but I did expect him to come out firing.

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On his musical side

Q: What’s your go-to song to jam on the strings? Second question … who’s the second-best musician on the team? Player or coach?

Nurse: My go-to song is “Folsom Prison Blues” by Johnny Cash. I’m currently learning “Riders on the Storm” by the Doors on the piano and that opening is pretty tricky.

Malcolm Miller stops by my office every so often and plays the piano — he’s pretty good.

Q: Hey coach, congrats on all of the well-deserved success. Big piano guy here! What kind of keys are you slaying at home during isolation? Acoustic or digital? I love my Roland RD700GX.

Nurse: Great question. So I have one of each — a very old grand piano in one room and I have a Roland FP-50 here in my living room. Big Roland fan.

Q: Favourite song to play on the guitar?

Nurse: My go-to on the keys is “Purple Rain,” for sure. On the guitar, it’s “Folsom Prison Blues,” and then “Signed, Sealed, Delivered.”

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On coaching

Q: Coach. You always talk about high basketball IQ and how important and instrumental it is for winning games. How do you plan for an opposing team’s/player’s high IQ (ex: Andre Iguodala)?

Nurse: It comes down to trying to disrupt their rhythm. IQ guys are good at playing rhythm-type ball when you take something away, they usually find something else quickly.

You have to force them to make changes quickly. Disrupting rhythm on our defensive end is key.

Q: Was there ever a time you thought about quitting coaching and doing something else?

Nurse: Sure. Coaching professionally in England — 15 or 16 games in and we were 8-8 and I was like ‘I don’t know if I’m that good at this.’

I went home and wrote down four other things that I thought I could do and they all looked like (expletive) to me, so I thought I’d better figure out how to coach.

Q: What do you see yourself doing if you never got into basketball?

Nurse: I would probably be a teacher of some sort — maybe a professor at a university.

Maybe that’s what I’ll do when I’m done coaching — teach from my porch in Iowa.

Q: Hi Nick, Curious if you have any superstitions or use any good luck charms for big games?

Nurse: Nope. None at all. I like to say I don’t vibrate on that frequency.

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