Nurse wondered if Leonard “was going to flip a switch” and received an emphatic answer during the NBA Playoffs, when the reigning Finals MVP led Toronto to their first-ever championship.
Kawhi is looking forward to a “fun” reunion Monday night with his now-former teammates as the LA Clippers play host to the Raps.
Per The Athletic:
Nick Nurse: “There were several times and team meetings that I thought (Leonard) kind of inserted himself into our team. I know you probably remember me talking a lot about his leadership, and that got to be a big story, people saying he’s not a leader and this and that. I wasn’t making that up. That was probably early on. I think we were probably 13-4 or something and we were having a little meeting about how the offence was running, and he kind of stepped up and said to the team, ‘This is how I see it.’ He couldn’t have said it better, for me. It was perfect.”
Fred VanVleet: “Obviously, he didn’t talk a lot. I think it took a long time for him to open up to us. I think for him to become open and trust us on the court — off the court, he was great — but on the court, I think we saw over the course of the year him open up and trust us, the entire team. I think him and Kyle had a good chemistry pretty early. And you could see it gradually happen for the entire team.”
Marc Gasol: “He speaks when needed. That, to me, is a great trait of a leader. When the team needs it, he has a voice, a voice that everyone listens to. He speaks the right stuff, cares about the right stuff. It was awesome. … I’ll keep it in the locker room. I have a lot of respect for the locker room stuff. But he’s always, always on point and never negative. Always balanced, always steady. You see him out there, and that’s the way he is. He’s not dramatic at all. He never has highs or lows. He’s always steady and on course.”
Nurse: “I’m not sure I ever said this publicly last year, but about February of last year, I was like: ‘He’s not playing to his full capabilities. He’s cruising to his 30 points a night.’ I figured it could go one of two ways. He was gonna cruise on out of here or he was going to flip a switch and try to win the whole damn thing. Obviously, we saw what happened.”