News of Kawhi Leonard’s departure from the Toronto Raptors is still fresh for most Canadian basketball fans, and the same is true for head coach Nick Nurse.
“Obviously he’s one of the greatest players in the world and talent in this league is hard to come by at that level,” Nurse said in an interview on ESPN during the Raptors’ Summer League game against the Golden State Warriors. “We’ll put our heads down and get to work and attack the season like we would. We’re going to get up every day with the goal of trying to win the championship, get up every day and go to work and expect to win.”
Leonard will reportedly be joining the Los Angeles Clippers in free agency, only weeks after leading the Raptors to the first NBA championship in franchise history.
Nurse said he found out the news moments before the reports came out late Friday night and added that he texted with Leonard a bit on Saturday.
“You can’t blame a guy for wanting to go home,” Nurse said during a separate media scrum Saturday night. “He was unbelievably fun to coach… now we got to go kick his ass.”
Nurse’s comments came in the first interviews by a member of the Raptors after the Leonard news came out. Earlier on Saturday, team president Masai Ujiri a statement thanking Leonard and Danny Green (who joined the Lakers Saturday) for their service.
“We are very thankful for the year that Kawhi and Danny played with us here in Toronto, and I know the city and the entire country of Canada are grateful for everything they did to help us to win our first NBA championship,” the statement said. “On behalf of the Raptors, I say a very heartfelt thank you to Kawhi and to Danny, and we send them and their families nothing but good wishes.
“As an organization, the Raptors will focus on the future and continue our pursuit of a second championship.”