The Lakers poaching his coach?
Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri has a message: Keep dreaming.
In a playful admonishment of reports that the Lakers are interested in Nick Nurse, who helmed Toronto’s only championship team in 2019, Ujiri – one of the most respected front office minds in the NBA – suggested that any ideas that Nurse will go elsewhere are mere fancy.
Nurse said no team has contacted him about talking to Nurse, who is under contract for several more seasons, and it doesn’t seem like Ujiri has any plans to let anyone take his head coach.
“I see all the stuff you see; I dream like they dream,” Ujiri said mockingly. “I want Messi. I want Ronaldo. I want Kobe Bryant. So they can keep dreaming. I dream too.”
When asked about more specific rumors, Ujiri said he wouldn’t get into it – but smiled mischievously and couldn’t resist a dig: “Our dreams, just like the Lakers.”
But beyond the laughter, the bottom line: The Raptors wish to keep Nurse, who has become a Canadian institution over the last few years (though he was born in Iowa).
The 54-year-old is 186-122 in his Toronto tenure, with a 25-16 record in the playoffs. He’s also the Canadian national team coach, adding to his stature in the country’s burgeoning basketball scene. Because he’s under contract, the Lakers would likely face the difficult prospect of trading for him.
A report from The Athletic the day after the Lakers fired Frank Vogel indicated that the franchise had interest in Nurse, but acknowledged it might not be a two-way attraction. While coaches have played coy about open jobs before, Nurse seemed bewildered in Monday exit interviews (after the Raptors’ first-round playoff exit against Philadelphia) when asked about the rumors: “I don’t know where that stuff comes from and I’m focused on coaching this team.”
There are connections: Nurse is represented by Klutch Sports, the same agency that boasts LeBron James and Anthony Davis as two of its most important clients. Nurse also coached with assistant Phil Handy in Toronto, when both won the NBA championship.
The only currently working candidate the Lakers have formally requested for an interview is Darwin Ham, a Milwaukee Bucks assistant who doesn’t yet have head coaching experience. Media reports have also linked the Lakers to Philadelphia’s Doc Rivers, Utah’s Quin Snyder and broadcaster Mark Jackson, who has not coached since May of 2014.
Full Masai Ujiri end-of-season availability is up.
SPOILER: Nick Nurse isn’t going anywhere 😭
— Yahoo Sports Canada (@YahooCASports) May 3, 2022