For the first time in a long time, Nick Nurse can catch his breath.
Circumstances are less than ideal and he would argue that he did not need it, but now that COVID-19 has brought the NBA season and almost everything to a standstill, the head coach of the Toronto Raptors has time for himself .
Since June 2018, when he was hired for his first NBA head coaching job, he has been largely at full capacity. He immediately jumped into the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas and then flew across the continent to connect with his new players while meeting and hiring his staff and preparing for the training camp and adding Kawhi Leonard.
His rookie NBA season couldn't have gone better, as everyone knows. He was on the sidelines for 82 games and 24 more in the postseason and culminated in the Raptors, which won their first NBA title in Game 6 of the NBA final in Oakland on June 13.
Then it was again a celebration, a parade, a free agency and a summer league. There was a brief pause at the end of July, but then it went back to Toronto to prepare the Canadian men's team for participation in the FIBA World Basketball Championship in China. He returned in mid-September as he prepared the Raptors for their defense defense.
"It was a pretty good run, from June 13th 2019 it was a pretty quick, fast, fast life for a while," said the nurse. “Really changing from one thing to the next. So it allowed me to brake and catch my breath, which is good and I don't feel like I really needed it. You know what I mean. But now that it's here, you know, if you're looking for silver lining or positives, you can say that it was fine. "
The brakes were put on pretty hard for the nurse – like almost everyone else.
On March 11, he was at the launch party for his nonprofit that wanted to run basketball, music, and literacy programs in and around Toronto when news circulated that Utah Jazz Center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the virus would have. It was barely an hour later that the NBA season was interrupted. The Raptors had just got home from their longest road trip of the season, which took them through California, where a state of emergency was declared during their stay, and ended in Utah, where two jazz players – Donovan Mitchell the other – were finally tested.
The nurse went from a party at Hotel X to tests at North York General Hospital to be quarantined in his room for the next 14 days. No one in the Raptors travel group tested positive for the virus.
"Apparently it was very close to home because it was really a member of the NBA family," said the nurse. "So I think the … immediacy of it. And the proximity of it. I think it made us all very serious.
“I think I immediately went into mode: 'Let's do what we should do, let's go home and stay at home and try to get the message out:' Let's make sure we do , what we do. & # 39; is told here and tries to stay healthy. & # 39;
"… people were concerned about training and going to [training facility] and all of these things, and I was really, really strong in my messages to everyone that we would close this and stay closed" said the nurse. who recorded a series of public announcements about the importance of hand washing and social distancing.
"Let's make sure we get out and when we send messages, wash hands, and things like that, I just wanted it to focus on it."
The forced calm has brought unexpected benefits. Instead of preparing for a much-vaunted showdown against the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday night and likely a fight between the first and second seeds in the east, Nurse is at home helping his toddlers ages three and one.
He could even see last year's title from a different perspective and watch the replay of the games that run every night on Sportsnet and TSN, including Game 7 against Philadelphia, which featured Leonard & # 39; s legendary shot from the right corner ended in front of the nurse and the Raptors Bank.
"I think the other day when Game 7 was on Philly, it was actually the first time I saw it, except in a highlight," he said. "Of course you see it all the time all the time when you just move through the city or the arena or the practice facility or whatever, but that was the first time I saw it."
"I don't think I really noticed that Kawhi put so much arc on that shot, that was my first snack. My other aspect is that you don't really remember some details. And … I was sitting there And looked at me with [his wife] Roberta and she said: "What happens here? How does a draw come about?" I go, "Well, Kawhi must have missed one of these free throws" [Leonard was at the line with 10 seconds left and went 1 of 2, opening the door to the Sixers tying the game on a lay-up with four seconds left, setting the stage for Leonard’s dramatic game winner].
"So you see things and obviously don't remember every detail. But yes, the big picture obviously makes it sink in a little."
What has not yet penetrated is the form that the basketball calendar will take when it is put into operation.
The 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo have already been postponed to 2021. The nurse said he was still 100 percent determined to train the Canadian senior team through qualifications, and ideally until next summer's Olympics.
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For the rest of the NBA season, Nurse is like everyone else – unsure of what comes next.
In the meantime, he meets regularly, albeit virtually, with his coaching staff. They are usually good at preparing for one of the # 2 Seed Raptors' potential playoff opponents, with each member of their coaching staff assigned a specific opponent for study. The result was presented to the nurse in long one-on-one meetings in his office.
"It's probably a two-hour video that we would go through in about three hours on each of the particular teams in the east and then in a handful in the west," said the nurse. "The coaches had already started and they will continue to do so. The only difference is that there is still no real one-on-one interview with me.
"The way we can do that, they probably just have to send me their processing and I just have to look at them and talk to them on the phone or something like that; FaceTime or something."
Otherwise? The time at home with his children was "fantastic" and Nurse tried his musical hobbies – piano and guitar. He even tries to learn Portuguese [his wife Roberta is from Brazil].
But like everyone else, he strives to resume routine and find out with the Raptors in the midst of a promising title defense how good his team can be.
When or in what format – it has been reported that the NBA could try to end the season by quarantining teams in one place and playing games for the benefit of a television audience with only a shortened playoff system – Nurse doesn't know and hasn't thought too much about it.
"What I think about it is this: this is a really good team and it's really fun to train them and I think about it is a shame we don't understand to be together and one to play a few games and keep it going a little bit, ”he said.
"Do you know what I mean? I'm not saying it very well, but this is a really unique situation that I don't think happens in this type of team every day. Shoot, I could train these guys 12 months a year, just keep going, we could keep playing all the time, it's fun to be with them and fun to train with, and they compete and they're tough and they find out.
"And it is a real joy and they are missing, there is no doubt about it."