Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse sat down with the team’s new star forward, Kawhi Leonard, for the first time in July and admits he felt a certain level of uneasiness before the highly anticipated meeting.
Nurse and Leonard had never met prior to their chat and Leonard is probably the quietest player in the NBA. Nurse, who took over for Dwane Casey, says he didn’t know what to expect from Leonard.
“There’s a certain sense of, I don’t know if nervousness is the right word, but a little bit of uneasiness,” Nurse told Eric Koreen of The Athletic. “You want to make a good first impression. It’s obviously a big move for the organization. You want it to go well. Knowing he was not known as a guy who said much of anything at all, I considered what would happen if he didn’t really say anything. What was I gonna do?”
Luckily for Nurse and the Raptors, the meeting between Leonard and Nurse went really well. 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.
“He lit up like a Christmas tree. 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 can become an unrestricted free agent in 2019 if he declines his player option for the 2019-20 season. The two-time Defensive Player of the Year requested a trade from the San Antonio Spurs this offseason after only playing in nine games last season due to a lingering quadriceps injury.
The Raptors can offer Kawhi Leonard almost $50 million more than any other team in 2019, including a fifth year.