Raptors Media Day Wrap
A little more than two months have passed since Kawhi Leonard became a member of the Toronto Raptors. The first player question at the team's annual media day availability on Monday morning was directed to him: How would you describe yourself?
“I’m a fun guy,” Leonard said, finishing with a laugh as he tried to spot the reporter who asked the question in a packed media crowd. "Obviously
I love the game of basketball, I mean, there’s just more questions you have to ask for me to tell you about myself. I just can’t give you the whole spiel. I don’t even know where you’re sitting at."
Though it will take time to get to know Leonard on and off court, he's ready to get the season going.
“[I’m] excited,” Leonard said. ”I’m coming to a great city that loves basketball. It’s a great organization and I’m happy Danny [Green] was able to come with me.”
After receiving news of the trade to Toronto in July, Leonard said his new teammates prepared him by telling him that the city was beautiful, and had plenty to do on and off court. In addition to praising the organization, he also mentioned the fanbase coming out and showing lots of energy.
Green provided a little more information on the 2014 Finals MVP, confirming Leonard's "fun guy" self-assessment, in addition to divulging his own personal goals for this year.
“[Kawhi] is a fun guy,” Green said. “If you know him, get to be around him, he's different in the locker room than he is for you guys [in media], but his main focus is basketball and he loves it. He puts the hours in, he puts the work in. There's a reason he's as good as he is. We're all expecting big things from him, we're expecting big things from everybody on this team, myself included. My biggest goal for me is to carry on and hopefully continue to be that tandem that we were in San Antonio, to bring it here, and help these young guys understand what it takes to get to that final stage.”
Leonard and Green shared the podium, with Raptors president Masai Ujiri sitting between the two. The NBA’s annual media day, signifying the unofficial start of the 2018-19 NBA season, occurred just hours before the team hopped on a flight to Vancouver to begin training camp.
Though Green and Leonard have only been on the roster for a couple of months Ujiri is confident the two will fit in nicely with Toronto’s current roster. “I want people to know that getting to know Kawhi, he’s a basketball guy, and [he and Danny] are basketball junkies,” Ujiri said. “Kyle [Lowry] is a basketball junkie and so is Nurse and so are the rest of the players.”
Lowry, entering his 13th NBA season, said his own focus this year will be on improving, of course, but also on recovering faster and doing things quicker. Though he has known Green since the two were young, playing in similar basketball circuits, training camp will be his first real opportunity to get familiar with Leonard. He intends to take advantage of the time on court in Vancouver to get everyone on the roster on the same page.
“I'm excited for another year,” Lowry said. “I'm excited for another opportunity to have another year to play basketball. I'm excited for our team to try to come together and win a championship. Kawhi's a great talent, he's a Finals MVP, and he has a ring, so I'm sure he has experiences that we all could learn from
“It's gonna be fun, man. An opportunity like this, we've gotta take advantage of it.”
Everyone is ready to get things going, but no one is more eager than first-year head coach Nurse. With new personnel on the player roster as well as an assistant coaching staff he got to select, the real work begins now. Though he and his staff have spent the summer preparing, things get real when the team steps on the court.
“How does this filter out, how does the chemistry [work], how do these guys play together, who plays what role?” Nurse said. “That’s the exciting part for me of getting on that plane today.
“We’re going to out there to see some things. I have a feeling a lot of them are going to be really good. I think our team’s very versatile. I think we’ll be able to move a lot of people around, which in this day and age in basketball, a lot of teams are playing a lot of different lineups and we’re going to be able to do the same.”
After spending the past three months preparing for his first training camp as head coach, Nurse is ready to begin to carve out the identity of this team.
“Listen, I love teams that play really hard, that go out there each and every night with a commitment you can see to winning a game,” he said. “My philosophy is kind of like an entrepreneurial philosophy. An entrepreneur will do whatever they have to do to make sure things get done. Our coaches will be that way, our players will be that way. Just do what it takes.
“Aesthetically, let’s move the ball, let’s guard people, let’s fight,” Nurse continued. “That’s basically it.”