Former Raptors 905 head coach Jerry Stackhouse may no longer be a part of the Toronto Raptors organization, accepting an assistant coaching gig with the Memphis Grizzlies this summer, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a thought or two on how a very busy Raptors off-season shook down.
The Raptors, of course, made sweeping changes in the summer, most notably replacing long-time head coach Dwane Casey with assistant Nick Nurse and swinging one of the biggest trades in franchise history in acquiring Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green from the San Antonio Spurs in exchange for team icon DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a protected first-round pick.
These are franchise-shifting moves, but to Stackhouse, they weren’t entirely surprising.
“It’s the business, man. I think [the Raptors] had a number of chances at it,” Stackhoise said on Sportsnet 590 the FAN Tuesday. “There was a common denominator in the downfall in LeBron James, but he’s no longer there, so conventional wisdom says maybe this is the time to we get over the hump. But there’s another side of it that says you’ve had a lot of opportunity to get it done.”
Speaking specifically about the big trade, Stackhouse understands why team president would make a move to acquire a player like Leonard.
“I love DeMar DeRozan, I love what he’s about, I feel that he has probably the best mid-range game in basketball, but with the way the game’s played now everybody’s trending away from his strengths,” said Stackhouse. “Just a couple years ago we were talking about this guy being valued as a top-three player right there with LeBron and Kevin Durant. Kawhi Leonard’s name is right there.
“So I get it. These windows close pretty quickly. Teams catch up with each other pretty quickly. You can see how Philadelphia came out of nowhere, Boston was basically middle tier and now they’re in the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference. So you can’t really just stay back. You’ve gotta continue to try to improve.”
As part of this effort to improve, the Raptors opted to hire Nurse after firing Casey. Stackhouse was among the candidates who were reportedly on the short list for the job, but they ultimately didn’t go in his direction.
The 43-year-old believes his more demanding nature may have been a knock against him.
“Maybe it was just not wanting to have to battle those demons because they were inevitably going to happen because I think you have to be strong in your accountability of players,” Stackhouse estimated.
“Obviously, there’s a hierarchy and not everybody’s held to the same standard. The best players on the team aren’t held to the same standards as the 15th and 16th guy, we all know that, but at the same time there has to be a respect that has to go on to make sure the culture is what it is on a day-to-day basis.”
Despite the discontent he felt in getting passed over for the head coaching gig, Stackhouse wishes nothing but the best for Nurse.
“it’s just a matter of who did they decide to go with? Obviously, I was disappointed that I didn’t get it, but I had to put on the face and be happy for Nick because he deserved the opportunity as well.”
He’s especially excited for the roster Nurse is inheriting saying, “I don’t think there’s anybody, any coach, in the NBA that wouldn’t want to go to war with the lineup that the Toronto Raptors are able to put on the floor for next season.”
A major part of this will be the team’s ability to switch on defence, something that Stackhouse says could put them in company with the NBA’s best team.
“Everybody wants to model themselves after the Golden State Warriors, but you don’t have the Golden State Warriors’ personnel. You’ve got all these guys that are six-eight and long and can switch and can guard and can move their feet and can play people in the post that are bigger than them, and all those types of things.
“You look at the Toronto Raptors. They’re another team. You talk about Pascal [Siakam], and I’ve always said Pascal is the best defensive player on the team. People said I was crazy when I said that two years ago, but he was. He was the best defensive player on the team because he can switch and guard one through five. As OG [Anunoby] can switch and guard one through four or five there. Now you get Kawhi who can guard probably one through five again. So you’ve got a lot of switching partners, as I like to say.
“They’re built in a mold, with their personnel, to do some things really special on defence.”
You can listen to Stackhouse’s entire radio appearance Tuesday in the clip further above in this post.