The Toronto Raptors have been hit especially hard by injuries in the early goings of the 2022-23 season. Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, and Gary Trent Jr., among others, have missed some time due to various injuries. Nevertheless, head coach Nick Nurse’s standards have remained sky high, especially as the Raptors try to remain competitive in the Eastern Conference amid a plethora of injury woes.
In fact, Nurse holds his players to an extremely lofty benchmark that a slight drop-off in certain areas becomes a cause for concern for him. Recently, it was Trent whom Nurse called out, in front of the media no less, after reporters brought up that the 23-year old guard’s average deflections per game dropped from 3.4 last season to 2.4 this year.
“It’s disappointing… We want him to be a disruptor. He kinda fits us if he does that, and if he doesn’t, he doesn’t fit us,” Nurse said, per Josh Lewenberg of TSN.
(Nurse’s full statement can be read in the tweet below.)
Nick Nurse was asked about Gary Trent Jr's deflections, which are down from 3.4 per game last season to 2.4. Had some strong words.
"It's disappointing… We want him to be a disruptor. He kinda fits us if he does that, and if he doesn't, he doesn't fit us." pic.twitter.com/21xuvzso0J
— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) November 22, 2022
Nevertheless, Nick Nurse knows that perhaps a significant contributor to Gary Trent Jr.’s worse defensive peripherals is the fact that he’s been hampered by physical ailments over the course of the season.
“We need to get him back. And I think some of that is he just hasn’t felt all that great physically for a lot of games this year. So hopefully he’s getting there where he’s going to feel good here, starting tomorrow,” Nurse added.
This is not Nurse’s first time to call out one of his players in a public setting. Back in the 2019-20 season, Nurse called out Pascal Siakam for his penchant for getting into foul trouble. The 55-year old coach also gave a blunt assessment of former Raptor Terence Davis’ performance, saying that “he’s not playing very well” as of late.
Nevertheless, it’s difficult to argue that Nurse’s coaching style doesn’t work. After all, the Raptors, after a down 2020-21 season which allowed them to nab Scottie Barnes, were able to return to the playoffs last year as the fifth seed. and of course, who could forget Nurse winning the NBA championship in his first year as head coach?
It will be up to Gary Trent Jr. as to how he’ll respond to Nick Nurse’s honest yet warranted criticisms of his play.