Raptors coach Nurse enjoyed meeting with 'engaging' Leonard

Field Level Media

Posted at Jul 29 2018 12:02 PM

New Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse had never met Kawhi Leonard so he was feeling a ton of trepidation before Leonard walked in the room at the team's practice facility last weekend.

He thought about Leonard's soft-spoken reputation and his recent pattern of being even less of a communicator. And it flashed through his head that there might be a lot of silence.

"I'd never talked to him before. I don't think I'm alone in that so you get a perception of him," Nurse told the Toronto Star. "I'll be honest with you. I kind of went in there thinking, 'What if he doesn't say anything? What am I going to do?'"

Nurse's fears were quickly set aside as the former San Antonio Spurs star was more than cordial. The two ended up conducting a 45-minute conversation in which Leonard had many questions.

"I sat down and said, 'Do you have any questions?' And he started firing them," Nurse said. "And it just led us to a really easygoing (conversation). Not what I was expecting. Very smart. Very intelligent. Very engaging."

Nurse said team management knocked on the door on a few occasions and he asked for more time. The conversation was flowing and he didn't want it shortened.

"Because we were really into it," Nurse said. "It was fun to listen to his take. He asked me, 'How are you going to use me? Where are you going to get me the ball? What do you see?'

"And I told him, 'Listen. To me, you can do pretty much everything.'"

Leonard developed enigma status last season when he played only nine games due to a quadriceps injury and remained away from the team for long amounts of time to rehab his injury in New York.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich tried to mend fences with the 2014 NBA Finals MVP after the season but Leonard insisted on being moved.

Leonard fancied joining the Los Angeles Lakers -- near his hometown of Riverside -- but the Spurs shipped him north of the border along with guard Danny Green for All-Star guard DeMar DeRozan, big man Jakob Poeltl and a 2019 first-round pick.

Leonard, 27, has one season left on his contract before he can become a free agent but the Raptors are holding out hope they can convince him to stay.

Leonard spent his first seven seasons in the NBA with the Spurs, appearing in a total of 407 games and averaging 16.3 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists. He is a two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year.

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