When the Toronto Raptors sit down to meet with Kawhi Leonard about potentially re-signing with the club when the NBA’s free agency moratorium begins on June 30 at 6 p.m. ET, the team should at least feel some level of confidence that he enjoyed his one season in Toronto.
“I’ve never talked to him about the situation at all other than he just expresses that he was happy with the year, he appreciated the team and the coaching staff and the fans and all that stuff,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said Wednesday evening on Prime Time Sports.
Given how Leonard’s year went, having captured an NBA championship and another Finals MVP award, it would be odd if he wasn’t at least somewhat satisfied with how things went for him, especially because his chief concern — his health — was certainly taken care of by Toronto’s medical staff and the load management program they developed for him.
“The medical care he got here that I think he’s over the moon with,” Nurse said of some of the things the Raptors could sell Leonard on when they meet with him formally. “I think [Raptors director of sports science] Alex McKechnie and his team he’s super comfortable with them and that’s probably one of the more important things.”
Another potentially important reason for Leonard to stay could also be the bond he’s appeared to forge with his teammates.
“I will say this, and this happens when you get a championship team, this is a pretty tightly-knit group,” said Nurse. “There’s a great relationship between Kawhi and Kyle [Lowry], there’s a great relationship between Kawhi and Serge [Ibaka], Kawhi and Marc [Gasol], Kawhi and Fred [VanVleet], Kawhi and Danny [Green], and any other permutation of the guys I just mentioned.”
And perhaps the biggest chip in Toronto’s favour is the fact the team can offer Leonard the most money at the most term because they own Leonard’s Bird rights. Should Leonard be looking to be locked into a long-term deal, Toronto can offer him an estimated five-year, $190-million contract as opposed to a four-year deal worth about $140 million with another team.
Leonard was but one topic Nurse discussed with Prime Time Sports hosts Bob McCown and Richard Deitsch Wednesday. Here’s a few more interesting tidbits the Raptors coach divulged:
Raptors will meet with the Prime Minister
When asked if he’s been invited to meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Nurse confirmed he will. No word yet on potentially paying U.S. President Donald Trump a visit at the White House yet, though.
“Definitely the Trudeau meeting because they’ve been asking me about scheduling it. I’ve heard nothing about the White House. …
“I don’t know [about going to the White House]. We’re here. Let’s go see Trudeau in Ottawa. We’re Canada’s team.”
OG nearly got into the Finals
OG Anunoby unfortunately never got to play a single post-season game during this Raptors run, as an injury kept him out of the lineup for most of it.
However, he was activated in time for Game 3 of the Finals and while Nurse ultimately didn’t use him, Anunoby nearly got into the clinching Game 6.
“I was very close in Game 6,” Nurse said of possibly calling Anunoby’s number. “Leading into that, I was working hard the day or two prior to the game to figure out a rotation or a matchup or a time of the game — I was looking up who they might have in. …
“I was thinking this kid might help and we might need a fresh burst of legs for five minutes somewhere in the third quarter or something and he might be able to do it. So I was getting to almost planning on using him and then it just never came to fruition.”
Nurse is getting his vocal chords ready for Wrigley
Sharing some unexpectedly cool “congratulations” messages he’s received in the aftermath of this championship victory, Nurse said he heard from Bill Clinton and another organization that seems to have meant far more to him than the 42nd President of the United States.
“I’m a huge Cubs fan and they sent me a video yesterday right before the game, Cubs-Sox game, in the organ-player’s room inviting me to sing the seventh-inning stretch at Wrigley and then they played ‘We Are The Champions’ on the organ. It doesn’t get any better for me than that.
“I’ve just gotta work on my voice a little bit.”
Ready to coach Team Canada
Nurse has confirmed that he will be coaching the Canadian senior men’s team at the FIBA Basketball World Cup, an opportunity he’s looking forward to.
“Really excited,” he said. “There’s a lot of young emerging talent there, so that’s exciting as well and we’re just gonna coach it like we did here [with the Raptors]. We’re gonna try to get a talented group of guys to play super hard and play together and go for it.”