Associated Press

New Raptors coach Nick Nurse made lasting impression on GM Masai Ujiri

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TORONTO (AP) — Toronto Raptors President Masai Ujiri hasn’t forgotten the first time he met Nick Nurse.

It was 1995 and Ujiri, now president of the Toronto Raptors, was playing for the Derby Storm of the British Basketball League. Nurse was coach of the rival Birmingham Bullets. Not yet 30, Nurse had already been on the bench for six years, quickly establishing himself as a coach on the rise.

“His teams were tough,” Ujiri said Thursday as the Raptors officially introduced Nurse as their coach. “There was always something about the Birmingham team that was different from the whole league. People talked about them that way.”

More than two decades on from that initial introduction, Ujiri is hoping Nurse has what it takes to turn Toronto into the talk of the NBA.

The ninth head coach in Raptors history, Nurse replaces his former boss, Dwane Casey – under whom he spent the past five seasons as a Toronto assistant. Casey was fired after the Raptors were swept out of the second round of this year’s playoffs by Cleveland, their third straight playoff defeat at the hands of LeBron James and the Cavs.

Ujiri called Nurse “everything you want in a candidate” and said his new coach, the first he has hired as an NBA executive, is someone who “thinks the game differently.”

“He was outstanding,” Ujiri said. “He really came out on top. Trying new stuff, being innovative, is who Nick is. You can tell he’s a tactician who really thinks the game.”

Nurse called it “a long month” of waiting for a decision following Casey’s dismissal but said he understood why Ujiri needed to take his time.

“Even though I’ve been across the gym from him for five years, there’s a lot of detail to go through,” Nurse said.

Nurse also gave credit to Casey, who was hired as Detroit’s head coach this week.

“We shared a lot of winning together,” Nurse said. “He’s a competitive guy, a great professional. I learned a lot from him. You can’t take away the five years we shared.”

Toronto went 59-23 this season, the best record in the Eastern Conference and second-best in the NBA behind Houston. Nurse was in charge of the offense, led by All-Star guards DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. He also engineered a successful overhaul of the game plan before last season as Toronto put increased emphasis on ball movement and 3-point shooting.

For the coming season, Nurse said he wants to inject more defensive creativity “so we can try to be ready for more things in the playoffs.”

Rex Kalamian, a Raptors assistant alongside Nurse last season, is expected to join the Los Angeles Clippers, leaving Nurse multiple spots to fill on his staff. Nurse said Thursday he has a good idea of what he’s looking for.

“I think it’s really important that we get an experienced staff,” he said. “Guys that have been head coaches at some level is important to me. It’s good to know what it’s like to be the decision maker.”

There’s also the possibility of new players, with Ujiri acknowledging Toronto has “work to do” with its roster.

Nurse graduated from Northern Iowa and got his first head coaching position at Grand View College when he was only 23. He spent more than a decade in Europe and was an assistant coach for Britain at the 2012 London Olympics. A past G League coach of the year, he’s the only coach to lead two teams to an NBA G League Championship, winning with Iowa in 2011 and Rio Grande in 2013.

Nurse’s career has seen its share of stops and opponents, but he still recalls facing Ujiri while with Birmingham.

“I remember,” Nurse said, smiling. “He played really hard.”

Vince Carter wins NBA Sportsmanship Award

Hawks forward Vince Carter
Jason Miller/Getty Images
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Vince Carter’s 22-year NBA career ended amid the chaos of coronavirus, preventing him from getting the deserved fanfare.

But fellow players will send Carter into retirement with the NBA Sportsmanship Award.

NBA release:

NBA players have selected Vince Carter as the recipient of the 2019-20 NBA Sportsmanship Award, the NBA announced today.

Carter, who spent the 2019-20 season with the Atlanta Hawks, announced his retirement from the NBA in June after playing a league-record 22 seasons.  He receives the Joe Dumars Trophy as the winner of the NBA Sportsmanship Award.  Dumars, a two-time NBA champion and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, played 14 NBA seasons and won the inaugural Sportsmanship Award in the 1995-96 season.

Each NBA team nominated one of its players for the NBA Sportsmanship Award, which is designed to honor a player who best represents the ideals of sportsmanship on the court.  From the list of 30 team nominees, a panel of league executives selected one finalist from each of the NBA’s six divisions.  Current NBA players selected the winner from the list of six finalists, with more than 250 players submitting their votes through confidential balloting conducted by the league office.

Full voting (with first-, second-, third-, fourth-, fifth- and sixth-place votes and voting points):

1. Vince Carter (Hawks): 143-70-34-13-4-2-2,520

2. Garrett Temple (Nets): 22-78-63-52-25-26-1,746

3. Steven Adams (Thunder): 34-57-41-52-58-24-1,632

4. Harrison Barnes (Kings): 24-25-75-48-35-59-1,418

5. Langston Galloway (Pistons): 23-22-29-60-79-53-1,244

7. Tyus Jones (Grizzlies): 20-14-24-41-65-102-1,016

What a nice honor for Carter, who gracefully aged from high-profile star to veteran mentor.

Heat: Bam Adebayo, Goran Dragic doubtful for Game 2 of NBA Finals

Heat players Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic
Jim Poorten/NBAE via Getty Images
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Bam Adebayo‘s and Goran Dragic‘s injuries… not looking great for the Heat approaching Game 2 of the NBA Finals.

Heat:

This is a disaster for Miami. The Lakers dominated Game 1, and now the Heat have two starters hobbled at best. At worst and more likely, Adebayo and Dragic are out.

Adebayo would be the bigger loss. Miami was completely overmatched when facing Anthony Davis without a center. Kelly Olynyk and Meyers Leonard can try to keep up, but they’re far from great solutions.

At least the Heat have more options at point guard. Kendrick Nunn can get an elevated role (especially after excelling in garbage time of Game 1). Jimmy Butler can become the de facto point guard. Tyler Herro can also play the position. But Dragic was playing so well during Miami’s run through the Eastern Conference. This is also a major setback.

 

Report: Tyronn Lue ‘early favorite’ to become Clippers head coach

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Doc Rivers is gaining momentum in the 76ers’ coaching search.

As for the job Rivers left behind with the Clippers… Clippers assistant and former Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue, unsurprisingly, has the inside track.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The Clippers are planning to interview other candidates, starting soon, sources said.

The New Orleans Pelicans are planning to interview Lue in the near future too, sources said.

Lue would be a sensible hire. He has championship experience, which would help the Clippers hit the ground running in a make-or-break season before Kawhi Leonard and Paul George can become unrestricted free agents. Lue managed stars in LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. The Clippers must improve their chemistry around their stars. And the last time Lue got promoted from assistant to head coach, his team won a title.

New Orleans also has an appealing job. But the Clippers are far closer to championship contention. And if both teams want Lue, I bet Clippers owner Steve Ballmer would outspend Pelicans owner Gayle Benson.

Still, the Clippers are conducting a coaching search. Other candidates could emerge. This isn’t necessarily Lue’s job for the taking.

How long would he wait on L.A. if the Pelicans make an offer? Lue has shown he values being entrusted.

Report: 76ers focused on Doc Rivers and Mike D’Antoni in coaching search

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The 76ers appeared focused on Mike D’Antoni in their coaching search.

Then, Doc Rivers surprisingly became available.

The former Clippers coach met with the 76ers and is now in the center of the conversation.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

For the Sixers now, the focus is on Rivers and D’Antoni, a source told ESPN. A decision is expected this week.

Rivers would be an easier fit with this roster than D’Antoni, whose style doesn’t appear to work as well with both Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Rivers also looks like he’d help Philadelphia take the next step.

But that seemed like it’d be true with the Clippers and wasn’t.

Tyronn Lue’s candidacy with the 76ers has clearly faded. Could he join the Clippers, Rockets or Pelicans? If Philadelphia hires Rivers, maybe D’Antoni still lands with the Pacers?

Rivers’ availability has definitely thrown a wrench in the coaching carousel.