Basketball

Scott Stinson: Nurse’s long-running Raptors experiment continues, however Gasol seeking to have a fast impression

NEW YORK — Over the previous couple of seasons, the Toronto Raptors have been huge believers in continuity. Final 12 months, they took it to the acute, with a bench unit that entered and exited the sport at related occasions most nights. That type of familiarity on the ground, it was figured, would breed success.

It bred one other humiliating playoff loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

This 12 months, there’s a totally different angle: continuity is for chumps.

I jest, a bit of. The Raptors don’t hate consistency of their lineups. Nevertheless it was by no means a giant a part of their plan. With a bunch of latest faces on the roster after the summer time blockbuster, head coach Nick Nurse stated he deliberate to juggle starters and use numerous permutations of Toronto’s assortment of rangy wing gamers. In pre-season, the coach stated he thought it’d take 40 or 50 video games to get a way of what combos he appreciated most.

He by no means did determine it out, due largely to the truth that the Raptors performed precisely one recreation with everybody wholesome.

After which the staff made it to Sport 57, and now they’re beginning yet again. Simply the best way Nurse likes it.

“I believe as you guys know I’m pretty experimental,” he stated earlier than Saturday night time’s recreation in opposition to the New York Knicks at Madison Sq. Backyard, a 104-99 win for the guests. “I in all probability will proceed to experiment, in a bit of faster mode, proper now.”

The rationale that Nurse is again in his glad place is, naturally, as a result of the Raptors have added 7-foot-1 Spaniard Marc Gasol, at the price of three common members of the Toronto rotation. The Raptors have been set to have their full complement of gamers again within the lineup for simply the second time since October in Atlanta on Thursday when the Gasol commerce went down just a few hours earlier than tipoff and put an finish to that concept. It’s virtually as if the Raptors made their huge transfer simply so Nurse may begin messing round once more. Nearly.

Toronto Raptors’ Kyle Lowry (7) shoots over New York Knicks’ Kadeem Allen (0) in the course of the second half of an NBA basketball recreation Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019, in New York. Frank Franklin II/AP Photograph

Requested Saturday if he would use the few remaining video games earlier than the All-Star Sport — two extra, after the go to to New York — as a little bit of a laboratory experiment, after which come out with extra of a plan after the break, Nurse demurred.

“I’m type of at all times in laboratory experiment mode,” he stated. “I’ll get to planning mode right here sooner or later. Let’s get by way of these subsequent two after which I’ll give it some thought, how about that?”

Positive, coach. I imply, it’s your name.

Nurse’s incessant tinkering this season has been born, considerably, of necessity. Kawhi Leonard has been load-managed into 16 missed video games, and Kyle Lowry’s tender again has triggered him to take a seat out a dozen contests. Jonas Valanciunas additionally missed two months after thumb surgical procedure, and was about to return when he was shipped to Memphis within the Gasol deal. Greg Monroe, the backup huge man who had crammed in for Valanciunas, was additionally moved on Thursday for salary-cap causes. All of which meant Gasol shouldn’t be precisely going to should struggle for enjoying time.

Requested how he would regulate to enjoying for under the second staff in his NBA profession after 10 years in Memphis, Gasol responded: “I don’t know, attempt to study the performs?” That appears a very good begin. The one-time Defensive Participant of the Yr stated he had watched video of the previous two Raptors video games — “they’ve quite a lot of performs” — and stated between that and his first morning shootaround with the staff, he was attempting “to choose up as a lot as doable.” However he additionally stated he understood that he wasn’t going to instantly perceive every thing that was occurring on the courtroom together with his new teammates. “Have a bit of persistence, and simply play ball,” Gasol stated.

When the topic turned to the place he thought the Raptors stacked up among the many a number of improved groups within the East, Gasol stated one thing that might have made his new coach proud.

“To me, clearly I’m talking for myself, (it’s about) how can we be the very best staff we might be when it issues essentially the most?”

Then-Memphis Grizzlies centre Marc Gasol (33) controls the ball in opposition to Denver Nuggets ahead Torrey Craig (3) within the second half of an NBA basketball recreation Monday, Jan. 28, 2019, in Memphis, Tenn. Brandon Dill/AP Photograph

It is a line, or a minimum of a model of it, that has been a mantra of Nurse’s since coaching camp. Wins within the common season have been secondary to the bigger aim of getting the staff able to peak within the spring. It’s why Leonard has missed a lot time though he has been largely wholesome and it’s why all of the lineup juggling has taken place. Gasol stated Thursday that he’s glad to step in wherever wanted, even when which means coming off the bench. However contemplating that Saturday’s look in opposition to the Knicks was his first as a reserve in additional than 700 video games, it appears a protected guess that received’t be a season-long development.

Gasol stated he was excited to be in Toronto, his two younger children are excited to fulfill a brand new mascot, and he needs to compete for a title. That was not an possibility out there to him on a 22-win Memphis staff.

“We have now, what, 26 video games left within the season?” (Sure.) “So it’s throughout these video games … we will enhance and get higher. You realize, to peak on the proper time.”

Nurse stated he had spoken solely briefly with Gasol thus far, however he definitely should have received that entire peaking-for-the-playoffs factor throughout. The coach stated he would strive various things on each ends of the ground. Similar to he was doing in October.

“I’d say it’s super-fluid proper now, however I believe it performs itself out,” Nurse stated. “I believe quite a lot of it’ll be matchup-driven prefer it was within the pre-season.” Then he smiled. “We’re again right here once more.”

It didn’t sound like a criticism.

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