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Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse sat down with the team’s new star forward, Kawhi Leonard, for the first time last weekend and says the meeting “was really enjoyable.”
Nurse and Leonard had never met prior to their chat. The conversation lasted around 45 minutes and Nurse says Leonard was very impressive.
“I sat down first and said, ‘Do you have any questions?’ and he started firing them [at me],” Nurse told TSN and The Toronto Star. “It led us to a really easy going [meeting]. It was not what I was expecting. He’s very smart, very intelligent and very engaging. It was really enjoyable.”
Raptors president Masai Ujiri was made aware of Leonard’s unwillingness to play for the Raptors before pulling the trigger on the trade with the Spurs. Ujiri made the deal anyway, as now that LeBron James is in the West, Toronto feels it has a great chance to get to the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history with Leonard in the mix.
The Raptors had the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference last season and are essentially replacing DeMar DeRozan with Leonard.
Ujiri and Nurse now have roughly 12 months to convince Leonard to re-sign with them. The Raptors can offer Leonard almost $50 million more than any other team in 2019, including a fifth year.
Nurse says Leonard asked him how the team plans on using him and where and how they want to get him the ball on offense.
“He lit up like a Christmas tree,” Nurse said. “He was prepared, he had a list of questions. Then when I got up he started asking me about the offense and I told him how we built it and the things that we do, the shot spectrum and showing him the spacing. He got out of his chair and got up at the board with me and they had to drag us out of there in the end because they had to go do something else. But it was great.”
Leonard only played in nine games this past season due to a lingering quadriceps injury. He passed his physical with the Raptors, but no one knows what the two-time Defensive Player of the Year will look like this upcoming season since it’s been so long since we have seen him in action.