The Toronto Raptors didn’t have to look far to name their next coach. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports that the Raptors are hiring current Raptors assistant Nick Nurse as their new coach.
Wojnarowski reports via Twitter that Nurse has agreed to a three-year deal to take over the reins in Toronto. The team has scheduled a news conference for tomorrow afternoon (2:30 ET) at Air Canada Centre to officially announce Nurse’s hiring.
The Raptors’ hiring of Nurse was also reported by Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun.
Nurse, 50, joined the franchise five years ago and was a longtime assistant under former Raptors coach Dwane Casey. Nurse spent a decade coaching in Europe and won to championships and a coach of the year award in the British Basketball League. He also won a pair of titles in the G League with two different teams and was coach of the year there, too.
Nurse was tasked with overseeing the team’s offense alongside Casey and played a key role in Toronto’s overhaul last season. After ranking 11th in True Shooting percentage and 21st in 3-pointers made in 2016-17, the Raptors moved up to fourth in both categories as the team enjoyed its best regular season ever.
In mid-May, the Raptors parted ways with Casey and were searching for a new coach ever since. Casey led the Raptors to a team-record 59-23 mark in 2017-18 and the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. But the Raptors were swept in the Eastern Conference semifinals by the Cleveland Cavaliers, setting in motion an earlier-than-expected offseason for Toronto. Shortly after Toronto’s loss in Game 4 of the semis, Casey was named the NBCA Coach of the Year — an award that is voted on by a panel of his coaching peers.
As of Monday night, Nurse was one of the favorites for the job — along with San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Ettore Messina. Additionally, the Raptors interviewed Sarunas Jasikevicius for the job last week, per ESPN.
While the Raptors weighed their coaching candidates, every NBA team that had a coaching position to fill — the Orlando Magic, Charlotte Hornets, New York Knicks, Detroit Pistons, Memphis Grizzlies, Phoenix Suns and Milwaukee Bucks — has since found a new coach.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
Deandre Ayton arrives as symbol that Phoenix Suns are on the rise
PHOENIX (AP) — Since the heady days of Steve Nash came to an end, there have been few signs of joy from a dwindling fan base that watched the Phoenix Suns tumble to the bottom of the NBA standings and miss the playoffs for the eighth year in a row.
Then came the announcement that Deandre Ayton would go to the Suns with the first overall pick. A huge cheer went up from the several thousand fans at Talking Stick Resort Arena on Thursday night for the draft party. General manager Ryan McDonough, owner Robert Sarver and coach Igor Kokoskov came out of their meeting room to watch and bask in that rare moment of sheer joy from the fans.
”It was a pretty special moment for our franchise,” McDonough said.
Not only that, but McDonough engineered a last-minute trade for swingman Mikal Bridges of Villanova, the 10th pick. It was a spendy move because Philadelphia demanded and got Miami’s unprotected 2021 first-round pick. But the Suns are weary of stockpiling assets. It’s time to cash in, they figured, and did it with that trade.
”We weighed the pros and cons of trading it heavily and carefully,” McDonough said. ”We were only going to put it in play if we had a chance to get a special player and that’s how we feel about McKell.”
All four of the Suns’ picks showed up on a crowded dais in Phoenix on Friday – Ayton, Bridges, French point guard Elie Okobo (chosen 31st) and forward George King of Colorado (the 59th selection).
The 7-foot-1 Ayton towered over the others, in a white unbuttoned collared shirt and a sharp blue suit, but he looked and sounded a bit weary from the whirlwind of being the No. 1 draft pick. His only sleep lately, he said, was a couple of hours on the plane ride from New York on Tuesday.
”I’m just excited to finally get a jersey on and be able to play five-on-five again,” Ayton said.
Ayton had been the frontrunner for the No. 1 pick ever since the draft lottery and any doubts were erased when he went through an individual workout with the Suns, the only team which he did so.
McDonough said that Ayton’s workout ”in and of itself was as impressive as I’ve ever seen in my 16 drafts in the NBA.”
Ayton is seen as strictly a center, so how does he fit in the modern style of the NBA, when center plays is diminished and players are essentially interchangeable, is a question. Ayton replied that he’s no ordinary center.
”I don’t like it when people think I’m just a guy down low,” he said. ”They haven’t watched me shoot the basketball.”
Ayton and Bridges say they got to know each other well at the college awards ceremony in Los Angeles but never figured they’d be on the same team.
”It’s like I’ve known him my whole life,” Bridges said.
Now comes the hard work, molding a team with Ayton, Devin Booker and Josh Jackson. A billboard of those three already has been erected downtown.
The Suns, so bad for so long, seem on the brink of being relevant.
”We’re very hungry,” Ayton said. ”I think the great team chemistry and the work ethic that we have, especially us guys coming in, we’re going to bring it to the next level. We’ve got young legs. We can run all day. … We can really start a winning legacy.”
And Ayton is the reason for the sudden leap in optimism, even though he won’t turn 20 until next month.
”I embrace it a lot,” he said of the expectations placed upon him. ”Through my career I’ve always had that on my shoulder, the expectations. I represent a whole nation (Bahamas) I just do that the best that I can and just help this community start over and be the best player I can possibly be. I just want to be the best great player.”
Kokoskov says Ayton possesses ”a unique talent for the decades.”
Ayton said he wants ”to be the best person on and off the court.”
Now the Suns move on to the next phase. Free agency starts July 1 and McDonough wants some veteran players to add to this very young core. He said the team should have $15 million to $20 million to spend.
”We were aggressive last night with the picks and the trade up to get Mikal,” McDonough said. ”We’re going to continue to be aggressive for the next couple of weeks in free agency. We’ve got some money to spend and we’re looking to spend it on the best players we can get.”
Report: Dallas Mavericks expected to hold Luka Doncic out of Las Vegas Summer League
Many of the players selected in Thursday night’s Draft will be on display next month in NBA Summer League.
No. 3 overall pick Luka Doncic likely will not be among them, reports ESPN’s Tim MacMahon.
A Mavs source says Luka Doncic is unlikely to play in the Las Vegas summer league. The Mavs don’t want to overwork Doncic in the wake of a long EuroLeague season that ended earlier this week.
— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) June 22, 2018
It appears the Dallas Mavericks will prioritze rest for their prized rookie, who is coming off a long EuroLeague season. Between FIBA play, Eurobasket, and ACB league games, Doncic has played over 150 professional basketball games the last two seasons.
“We’ve got to understand that he is 19,” said Mavs coach Rick Carlisle after the Draft. “NBA stardom doesn’t happen overnight. It’s going to be a process, and we’ve got to protect him as well as be excited for him to get on the floor and do the things that he’s done so well in Europe.”
Dallas moved up two spots in a trade with Atlanta to select Doncic as the Draft’s No. 3 pick, while the Mavs shipped Trae Young to the Hawks at No. 5 and a future first-round pick.
Dirk to Doncic: Dallas Mavericks tap brakes on inevitable comparisons
DALLAS (AP) — Luka Doncic didn’t get compared to Larry Bird when he was introduced a day after the Dallas Mavericks traded up to get the third overall pick in the NBA draft.
For president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson, that’s progress based on his last experience of getting a tender-aged European in hopes of lifting the Mavericks out of the doldrums.
Twenty years later, Dirk Nowitzki is the highest-scoring foreign-born player in league history. Back then, the big German wasn’t remotely comparable to Larry Legend – and his rough first two years proved it.
So ask Nelson about a player the Mavericks clearly coveted heading into the draft in Doncic, and he’ll choose his words carefully regarding the 19-year-old from Slovenia. Doncic won’t turn 20 until after the All-Star break of his rookie season, which is expected to be Nowitzki’s record 21st with one franchise.
”Dirk and I had a long talk coming in,” Nelson said about the player Dallas drafted days after his 20th birthday in 1998.
”We’re obviously very excited to have (Doncic) but he’s got a very tough road ahead of him. Dirk wasn’t done any favors in his first two years. We are going to steer away from any of those comparisons. Luka is his own guy. He’s got his own challenges.”
Coach Rick Carlisle dropped a few international names in trying to describe the versatility Dallas thinks is offered by the 6-foot-7 Doncic, who won Euroleague MVP and Final Four MVP honors while helping Real Madrid win the title just days before the draft.
After offering comparisons to the late Drazen Petrovic, three-time champion Toni Kukoc and longtime San Antonio star Manu Ginobili, Carlisle stopped.
”I really feel it’s important that we shouldn’t try to compare this guy to anybody,” Carlisle said Friday during an introductory news conference that included Doncic and second-round pick Jalen Brunson, who won two NCAA titles in three years at Villanova. ”Let him be himself. Let his game takes its own form.”
Doncic figures to shape the future of the Mavericks in some form with Dallas coming off consecutive losing seasons for the first time since the second of Nowitzki’s two difficult years at the start of his career.
Those 1990s-era Mavericks had 10 straight losing seasons. Combine the drafting of Doncic with last year’s ninth overall pick in point guard Dennis Smith Jr. and a still-young leading scorer in Harrison Barnes, and Carlisle expects the losing to stop soon, if not this coming season.
”Last night was symbolic to me that it was kind of a defining moment in this rebuild,” said Carlisle, who had just one losing season as a coach before the current Dallas slide. ”We’re going propel forward with the idea that we’ve got to start winning games.”
Just as he did last year with Smith, Carlisle is declaring Doncic a starter, which means the opening night lineup will have a teenager for the second straight year. Youth partly explains a two-year record of 57-107, including the 24-58 mark last season that landed Dallas the fifth pick before the draft-night trade with Atlanta on Thursday.
Another explanation was an unusually large number of undrafted players, including a young German in Maxi Kleber who grew up watching his countryman become the 2007 MVP and 2011 NBA Finals MVP.
The Mavericks haven’t won a playoff series since taking their only title in 2011, and have missed the postseason three of the past six seasons coming off a 12-year playoff streak. Doncic might only get one chance to get Dallas back on track with Nowitzki, the 13-time All-Star who has hinted that 40 is a nice round number as a retirement age.
If this is it for Nowitzki, Nelson sees a trio in Barnes, Smith and Doncic that reminds him of Michael Finley mentoring Nowitzki and point guard Steve Nash and helping the Mavericks end a 10-year playoff drought in 2001.
”Michael Finley was our Harrison Barnes back in the day,” Nelson said. ”We feel like we’ve got that here in a different form. There’s just some really cool elements to this that take me back and remind me about what it was like 20 years ago when we were watching these young guys.”
Just don’t remind Nelson about the Nowitzki-Bird comparisons.
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