Raptors' Nick Nurse Discusses Changes, Worries During NBA Restart amid COVID-19

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistJune 26, 2020

Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse yells toward players during the second half of his team's NBA basketball game against the Golden State Warriors in San Francisco, Thursday, March 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse provided his thoughts and concerns on the NBA's impending restart amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In an interview with David Aldridge of The Athletic, Nurse discussed COVID-19 testing and how the possibility of one or more of his players testing positive at some point could impact the way he prepares them:

"I guess I'm more concerned—or, my thoughts keep thinking of—what if there's a positive test and a guy has to sit out for two weeks? You're trying to get them in shape, and now they gotta go back to doing virtually nothing, and then bring them [back]. It's going to be tricky. One of the first things I said to my team this week, and to my staff especially, is we've got to get all 17 guys ready. ... You usually get to the playoffs and you're talking about eight, seven-and-half [man rotations] sometimes, you're playing big minutes for guys. I said, we've got to get some role for everybody, 'cause we have no idea who we may need to use."

Because of the restrictions in place in Canada, the Raptors have assembled in Naples, Florida, and begun practicing and preparing for the resumption of the 2019-20 season in Orlando, Florida, next month.

Nurse also touched on some of the protocols that have been put in place now that the team is gathering and suggested that he has pins and needles to some degree because of the constant threat of COVID-19:

"It's strange. It feels good to be back on the floor. Just walking out there and hearing the balls bounce, that's a good feeling on one hand. And, yeah, it's some, a little anxiety around. We're going into such an unknown territory here. Every day you get tests [and] you think, 'Man, I hope I pass. When do I get my results back?' is kind of on your mind.

"The social distancing, you go look at our ballroom where we're eating, and there's big, huge tables all over this huge ballroom with two seats at each one. There's some things that feel strange, and look strange, and are strange. But we're trying to get to our goal, which is to get to Orlando [as] healthy as possible and get these guys back moving around a little bit at the same time."

Aldridge expanded on some of the ways the Raptors and other NBA teams are attempting to remain safe in the current climate.

Only four players and eight coaches are allowed on the court at once, and each player is assigned to one basket. Each player is assigned two basketballs as well, and they will use the same balls for the duration of their time in Naples.

The practices are usually about one hour and 20 minutes in length, and when that group of four is done, everything is cleaned and a new group of four arrives.

It is far from an ideal circumstance, but the NBA is doing everything possible to make the resumption of the season a reality. Until then, teams like the Raptors are simply trying to keep their players healthy and eligible to play in Orlando.

When the season resumes July 30, the remaining 22 teams will play eight regular-season games each and then the top eight teams in each conference will reach the playoffs.

The Raptors, who are the reigning NBA champions, are in a great spot, as they own the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference at 46-18. The top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks are the favorites in the East, but Nurse and the Raptors knocked them off in the Eastern Conference Finals last year, so perhaps they can do it again this time around.

Bleacher Report's David Gardner interviews athletes and other sports figures for the podcast How to Survive Without Sports.