Raptors Head Coach Nick Nurse: 1st Conversation with Kawhi Leonard Went Well

Kyle Newport@@KyleNewportFeatured ColumnistJuly 28, 2018

FILE - In this Jan. 13, 2018, file photo, San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) moves the ball up court during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Denver Nuggets, in San Antonio. General manager R.C. Buford acknowledges star forward Kawhi Leonard is unhappy with the Spurs. He remains optimistic the relationship can be salvaged. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)
Eric Gay/Associated Press

After Kawhi Leonard forced his way out of San Antonio, Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse wasn't sure what to expect with his newly acquired star.

Leonard and Nurse recently sat down together in Toronto to get acquainted, and their first interaction couldn't have gone much better.

"I sat down and said, 'Do you have any questions?' And he started firing them," Nurse said, per Dave Feschuk of the Star. "And it just led us to a really easygoing [conversation]. Not what I was expecting. Very smart. Very intelligent. Very engaging. Really enjoyed it. ...[Management] had to drag us out of there in the end because they had to go do something else. But it was great."

The conversation not only allowed the two to get to know one another, but it also gave the player a chance to see how he was going to fit in with his new team.

"We could have gone forever. [Raptors management] kept knocking on the door, and I was like, 'A couple more minutes.' Because we were really into it. 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. You can post. You can drive. You can handle it up the floor. You can play screen-and-roll. You can come off pindowns.' I said, 'Did I miss anything?' 

"He's like, 'No, that's about it.' I said, 'You'll probably be doing all that stuff.'"

Leonard has gained a reputation for being soft-spoken as well as someone who possesses a robotic personality. After his desire to play in his hometown of Los Angeles became public, some wondered how he might react to a trade that sent him to Canada.

Combine all of that with his drama-filled season that saw him only appear in nine games because of a quad injury, and it would be understandable for Nurse to be cautious.

"I'd never talked to him before," Nurse said. "I don't think I'm alone in that. So you get a perception of him. 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?'"

Leonard, 27, has a player option for the 2019-20 season, and Nurse and Co. must be happy with this first interaction.

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