Nick Nurse discusses the growth in Fred VanVleet & Pascal Siakam

Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse comments on the level that Pascal Siakam & Fred VanVleet are playing at, working with Siakam on becoming a non-traditional big and how the tandem of Scottie Barnes and Siakam have complemented each other in backup point guard minutes.

Video Transcript

NICK NURSE: Thank you.

- Hi, Coach. We have questions for you here today. And we'll start with Doug.

- Good morning, Nick. How are you today?

NICK NURSE: Good, Doug. How are you?

- I'm good, thank you. Last night you sort of touched on Fred's going to be seeing a whole lot of different things in the next weeks-- the way he's playing. How do you develop different systems to get him shots? And who is it on? Is it on his teammates? Is it on him? Is it on you? Like, how does it evolve?

NICK NURSE: I mean, it's a collective thing, Doug. I think it's first of all recognizing different coverages and getting the guy getting the pieces in the right place to play against them, make them aware.

I don't know if it's switching what we're doing, if it's blitzing what we're doing, if it's whatever. Probably moving him around some, getting him off the ball some, as well. Again, just trying to-- whatever the defense shows, we've got to try to find the counter or the reaction to it.

- Yeah, that was my next question, was the emergence of Pascal and OG and Scottie as ball handlers and guys who can get you sort of organized should allow you to move him off the ball even more than you are now, do you think?

NICK NURSE: Yeah, we're getting there, Doug. I think we're getting there. I think that, you know, with the last few games of having Pascal and Scottie kind of run the backup point guard, I think they're getting more familiar with-- again, mostly it's just spacing and organization that they got to get familiar with.

I think the nice thing about that is if for some reason one of them, I don't know, has a tough match-up bringing it up the floor, then the other one can. Usually there isn't--

- Right.

NICK NURSE: --two guys that can go get under those guys or whatever. And I don't think that's even that big a problem. They seem to be able to handle that, too, with some pressure up the floor.

- Great. Thanks very much. Appreciate it as always.

NICK NURSE: Thanks, Doug.

- And next, we'll go to Josh.

- Hey, Nick. How you doing?

NICK NURSE: Good, Josh. How are you?

- I'm doing well, thanks. It's been few games now where we haven't seen that drop off when Fred goes to the bench. What have you liked about that group that's been in there when he's been getting his rest minutes? And how much of a difference does that make for you as a coach knowing that you can give Fred that breather and maybe even leave him out for an extra two minutes or so and not have to worry as much about the lead in the score?

NICK NURSE: Yeah, I mean, let's hope they keep it up, Josh. I think they've done a great job both ends, like especially starting the second and fourth of-- you know, I just think usually that's a pretty long team. And their length has got them some offense.

And even like yesterday, they did a good job of executing some stuff early to start the quarter and made the shots on top of it. So it's been a couple of games where they've made nice runs. You know, just hope again probably more in the mode of that's probably icing on the cake.

I mean, you know, it's always kind of hold serve or stay afloat during those times usually. But it's been nice, of course, for those guys to put up a plus 6 or a plus 8 or whatever it's been in those moments to start the quarter. I mean, Fred can't play the whole game obviously, right? So he's got to have those moments of being out.

- Great. Thanks, Nick.

NICK NURSE: Thanks, Josh.

- And next we'll go to Michael Grange.

- Hey, Nick. How are you?

NICK NURSE: Hey, Michael. Good, how are you?

- Good. I was just kind of wondering, we talked about Fred and his scoring and everything and just maybe how he impacts some of the younger guys or newer guys in terms of his leadership or maybe giving them confidence. And I guess I'm just thinking, you know, when he got his triple-double the other night, you know, he connected with Precious a couple of times late.

And you know, Precious has had his struggles here and there and all of that. So what does it matter or what's the impact when Fred kind of leans into Precious and maybe creates-- doesn't give up on him, I guess, is maybe a good way to put it.

NICK NURSE: Yeah, that's a good point. I think that there's probably a lot more to explore or reap benefits from that combination, right? I think, again, it's kind of happened once a game here, maybe one or two. But it should be something we could get to, you know, maybe a handful of times with Precious screen and roll and throwing it up there to him, working on that timing and chemistry there.

You know, I think the big thing, and I always say this, and Fred's doing it, you know, you just got to make the right play. And if they're putting-- you know, if they're putting two on you, you've got to get off it to the open man. And again, you've done your job if that's it.

And you know, I've been fairly happy, Michael, with the reads the guys are making. They're getting a little bit of everything. You know, they're getting it to a guy. We're getting some slash cuts to the rim. We're getting some kick outs open. We're getting a kick out to a swing pass to open. So that shows you that the spacing and the familiarity of where they're supposed to be is getting to a good place.

And that's really it. That's how Fred impacts. He just continues to make the right play and, like you said, having confidence. When he gets off it to Precious, something good's going to happen. When he gets off it to Khem, something good's going to happen. Or he calls a certain guy's number through the flow of the game and keeps leading the team.

- And I mean, in your experience, is that the kind of thing that pays dividends? I mean, if guys know that a guy, the number-one guy or the key guy, is still willing to go to them maybe through a rough patch, that's got to matter, I would think.

NICK NURSE: Well, I think that Freddie probably-- you know, he notices maybe when he needs to get somebody going, right? You know, there's a lot of things going on out there. Sometimes there's-- he can just feel it. Sometimes they'll say something.

Sometimes you can just kind of tell that they're a little bit, you know, not engaged fully. And he'll try to get them a bucket or a touch or call a play for them or something just to let them know that he is going to try to look for them and, again, try to keep them engaged in the rest of the game.

- I appreciate that, Nick. Have a great day.

NICK NURSE: Yep, thanks, Michael.

- Next, we'll go to Stephen.

- Hey, Nick. It's good to see you.

NICK NURSE: Hi, Stephen.

- Obviously Fred has been scoring a ton. But Pascal also scoring a ton and playing very well. So I was wondering, what does Fred's-- like with Fred taking more shots, scoring more, how does that help Pascal get his game off more effectively?

NICK NURSE: Well, I'm not-- I don't know, Stephen, if that's a matter of it. I mean, I think, again, you see a lot of the volume of shots is a lot of time dependent on what we're seeing defensively, right? And we've had a couple games in a row where we've played against two bigs, and it's a dribble handoff game or a ball screen game a little bit more than whatever.

So I don't think-- I just feel like Pascal's playing his game and he's reading situations well. He's doing it in. He's doing it out. He's doing it driving. He's doing it posting. He's doing it in transition.

I think, again, that's, to me, where he's most effective, is when he gets a little bit of everything, get a transition layup, get a transition post up, you know, hit a 3, take it in there, get some free throws, you know, a few iso's here and there where he pulls up or where he drives it all the way. And we're just seeing a little bit more of the variety.

And I think he's just in a good rhythm with seeing the game right now. Again-- and I think his passing's been good. So he's in a good rhythm.

- And obviously Fred and Pascal have great synergy with each other, playing with each other for so many years. They've been-- they know each other very well. But is there another level of this connection with each other that they can hit, do you think?

NICK NURSE: Well, I think, Stephen, that they're in a good connection level right now. And I think it's kind of maybe come back. You know, I think, again, they're both in rhythm individually. And now they're really working in sync together.

There's a lot of combinations of things they can do together. And you know, they've kind of always had it. But now it's at such a different volume because of their status on the team and our roster, right?

We used to kind of use them as kind of unexpected guys to work together, you know, when you had a bunch of other guys out there. And now they're the main guys. So that's why the volume's gone up so much.

- All right. Thanks a lot, Nick.


- And next, we'll go to Nikki.

- Hi, coach.

NICK NURSE: Hi, Nikki.

- Thanks for joining us. Kind of to that point, Pascal was talking last night how much more comfortable he is with the ball in his hands and kind of directing traffic. What have you seen from him in terms of growth in that department? And was it a function of, like, necessity or need, as you were talking about what the defense gives you? Or is it because this is something that he wanted to do? Or can you just speak about his evolution?

NICK NURSE: Yeah, I mean, he's really done a good job, Nikki. And I think part of it has been need. You know, when we went through some of those games with a lot of guys out, we put the ball in his hands a lot more.

And then when we got the guys back, we decided to take a look at a little bit of a different look with the second unit because we liked what we saw with the ball in his hands. And you know, so far so good.

You know, again, he's doing a great job. The hardest, probably, thing is that he's got to-- you know, when there are set pieces that we're running, he's now playing a totally different position. So that means that he's understanding the entire play and all the reads from a different look. And he's done good with that. So that's been encouraging to see, too. So hopefully we can keep that going.

- What does that say to his work ethic and basketball IQ, that he's able to pick this up?

NICK NURSE: Yeah, he's been really great, Nikki, as far as his-- just his, I don't know, team spirit or his leading, his practice. He's really been focused and spending the time to brush up on anything that he needs to as far as the execution side of it goes. He's just been attentive to detail. And it's paying off for us and for him.

- Well, thanks, Coach. Have a good day.

NICK NURSE: Thank you. You, too, Nikki.

- Two more for you here, Coach. We'll-- first, we'll go to Aaron Rose.

- Hey, Nick. Sorry about that. Pascal-- following up on Nikki's question. Pascal was talking last night about how he didn't want to be a traditional big. Do you remember him conveying that to you at some point, saying, like, teach me how to do a bunch of different things? [LAUGHS]

NICK NURSE: No, I think it just kind of happened, Aaron. I think that, you know, the one moment or story or whatever you want to call it that kind sticks out to me is he had a game-- you know, it's been a long time now, five or six years ago, whatever-- where he got a bunch of defensive rebounds and pushed the ball up the floor and either scored it or sprayed it out to somebody for a shot.

And we just kind of showed a lot of those clips and said, you know, this guy, when he gets the rebound, get running because we're going to let him start bringing it more. I think that was probably the evolution of it.

- Sure. And on a totally different topic, you guys are sending Malachi and Dalano to the G League tonight. What do you want to see from those guys with some run with the 905?

NICK NURSE: Yeah, just mainly that they get out there. You know, they haven't been on the court much at all here for a couple weeks. So just to get them out there and get them some quality minutes on the floor and some rhythm and timing, conditioning, and, again, I think playing with pace, attacking the paint, playing the right way, playing both ends.

- Thanks, Nick.

NICK NURSE: Thank you.

- And last one for you here, Coach. We'll go to Vivek.

- Hey, Nick. Thanks for taking the time.

NICK NURSE: Hi, Vivek.

- You mentioned the variety with Pascal and how he can do all these different things. I was just wondering, with his confidence looking like it's sky high, is there maybe a specific thing that he does where you feel like, yeah, he's really feeling it? Is it, you know, him maybe taking it coast to coast or anything like that?

NICK NURSE: Not really. Again, I think he's usually best when there's variety in what he's doing. And I think that's it right now. He's getting some transition. He's getting some cuts to the rim. He's driving it to the rim. He's knocking down a shot. He's making his free throws.

I think, again-- and maybe it changes to some more specifics. Again, I think it always depends on how he's getting played, who we're playing, what the defensive schemes are, right? And my main concern with both Freddie and Pascal is they just keep making the right plays, right?

If they draw two defenders, they've got to find the open guys. And that's good offense. They've done their job on offense if they can draw two defenders.

- Is there a different swagger to this team when they see Pascal playing the way he's playing?

NICK NURSE: I don't know. I think our team's OK, right? I think we're-- I think when we got most of our guys healthy or playing, we feel like-- again, we feel like we can at least look you in the eye physically. You know, so that gives us a chance. And I just think they've done a good job of figuring out where to get the offense from.

There's-- you know, we didn't play great by any stretch the last couple games. But you're not always going to play great. And the main thing is we find a way to win. And we try to get better and learn what we can learn and keep improving. We got a long ways to go improvement-wise with this team.

- Thank you, Nick.

NICK NURSE: You're welcome. Take care, everybody. Thanks.

- Thanks, Coach.

NICK NURSE: Precious, you're up, man.

- And Precious is in the room here. So if you have a question, please raise your hand. Thank you.

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