Nick Nurse Rips Officiating Toward Kawhi Leonard: 'It's Unbelievable to Me'

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistDecember 17, 2018

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 07: Head Coach Nick Nurse of the Toronto Raptors looks on against the Brooklyn Nets during their game at the Barclays Center on December 07, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

Nick Nurse is only 32 games into his head coaching career, but he knows it's always good to criticize how your best player is being officiated.

Following Sunday's 95-86 loss to the Denver Nuggets, the Toronto Raptors head coach argued Kawhi Leonard isn't receiving the treatment afforded to typical All-Stars, per TSN's Josh Lewenberg:

"I do not understand why they are letting everybody play one of the best players in the league so physically. I do not understand it. It's been going on all year. But tonight was a very severe case of a guy who was playing great, taking it to the rim and getting absolutely held, grabbed, poked, slapped, hit and everything, and they refused to call any of it. It's unbelievable to me."

The Athletic's Eric Koreen shared Nurse's additional thoughts:

The numbers don't entirely back up Nurse's assessment.

Leonard only attempted four foul shots Sunday, but he entered the game averaging the ninth-most free throws (6.9) in the NBA. The two-time All-Star isn't a player who lives at the rim either. According to NBA.com, 36.8 percent of his shot attempts came within nine feet of the basket. 

Leonard doesn't score a disproportionate number of his points inside, which is where one would expect him to draw more fouls, yet collects a steady amount of free throws.

But that won't stop Nurse from adopting a tactic almost every coach in NBA history has leaned on at one point or another. Raptors fans will remember Dwane Casey calling out the referees following a loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder in March.

Given Leonard's contract status, Nurse has further incentive to make sure he's feeling appreciated and has plenty of defenders in Toronto.

Leonard can opt out of his deal and become a free agent in the summer. While Leonard's Raptors career didn't get off to a great start, the team's performance might entice him to re-sign. The Raptors are first in the Eastern Conference at 23-9 and have a great chance of reaching their first NBA Finals.

If Paul George can return to Oklahoma City, then it's not ridiculous to think Leonard can stay in Toronto.

Having Nurse go to bat for him in front of reporters is one of the little things the Raptors can do to help their chances.

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