Lewenberg: Toronto Raptors rally to get fill-in mentor Griffin his first get

Lewenberg: Toronto Raptors rally to get fill-in coach Griffin his first win

TORONTO – The Toronto Raptors are as excellent as any group in basketball at creating and empowering talent. It is 1 of the biggest reasons for their sustained achievements above the previous seven many years.

For proof of that, you just had to appear close to the gym late in Wednesday’s comeback 125-121 acquire in excess of the Philadelphia 76ers.

In the spectators’ portion, assistant-turned-head coach Nick Nurse looked on while sitting down subsequent to Bobby Webster – the standard manager, who has worked his way up the team’s entrance workplace hierarchy.

On the court docket, five guys who performed extra minutes in the G League than with the NBA club this season pulled out the victory, when the starters cheered them on and celebrated from the sideline. That team bundled various homegrown goods that have blossomed into NBA stars or rotation players, these as Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, Norman Powell, OG Anunoby and Chris Boucher.

Then, on the bench, there was Adrian Griffin.

With the Raptors already locked into the East’s 2nd seed and their very first-spherical matchup versus Brooklyn set, Nurse made the decision to cede head coaching obligations to Griffin, one of his guide assistants, for the penultimate regular season sport in the NBA bubble.

The outcome did not issue a great deal in regards to the standings, but it was a night time – and a get – that Griffin won’t before long fail to remember.

“You truly cannot place it into phrases,” the 46-year-aged basketball lifer reported afterwards. “It definitely touches me. You know, these guys we go to war with them, we won a championship jointly, the highs and lows and they’re your spouse and children, they are your brothers out there.”

“First, I have to thank mentor Nurse. He did not have to do this. Honestly, for a person night I felt like Cinderella. I had the glass slippers on and it was terrific. Tomorrow it’s again to truth but it was an brilliant sensation.”

It was a fairy-tale ending. With just about two minutes remaining and Toronto down by seven details, Griffin took a page out of his boss’ playbook and place on the entire-court docket push.

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Rookie Dewan Hernandez, who had only logged 11 NBA minutes coming in, drilled his first 3-pointer as a pro and then drove to the rim and finished by way of speak to. Matt Thomas hit a a few and sparingly utilised forward Stanley Johnson pressured a Philadelphia turnover on the following possession.

The Raptors’ bench was loving it – erupting after every single bucket and exchanging some good-natured trash talk with Philly’s starters. For a game that shouldn’t have meant substantially to possibly crew – the Sixers are locked into the sixth seed and will enjoy Boston in Round 1 – there was an enjoyment to these remaining moments.

The game was tied with 18 seconds remaining, offering Griffin the opportunity to draw up a winning play.

Off the inbounds pass, Johnson break up double protection to get in the lane and discover Hernandez, whose floater was blocked. The ball arrived back again to Johnson, who flipped it in to give Griffin his very first victory as an NBA head coach.

“He did an unbelievable career,” mentioned Kyle Lowry, who only played 25 minutes, but scored 18 of his 19 details in the 2nd quarter. “Hopefully coach Griffin will get a opportunity to be a head coach soon. We’ll skip him, but ideally he receives his option to be a head coach. We gave him a bit of a h2o shower. We forgot to get him the basketball but he’ll have a great deal additional wins to occur and he’ll get that basketball.”

“We have been definitely psyched for him,” reported Powell, who started out in area of the resting Anunoby and scored 17 factors. “We needed to go out there and perform really hard and help him get his earn as a head coach. I imagined we did that all over the activity. When issues weren’t likely as perfectly, when we did not get the contact or photographs weren’t going in, a couple of defensive breakdowns, he definitely voiced his feeling on what we required to do to get superior. He had a powerful voice in the huddle and I imagine the fellas seriously rallied all around that, particularly at the close of the recreation, participating in challenging, actively playing their hearts out for AG. That exhibits what variety of individual he is and what kind of players we have on this group.”

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Griffin has paid his dues in the league over the earlier two a long time. Right after a 9-year enjoying occupation, he’s been an assistant mentor with five teams – Milwaukee, Chicago, Orlando, Oklahoma Town, and now Toronto – in 11 seasons. Griffin was doing work for the Bulls when he to start with met Nurse, who was coaching Chicago’s D-League affiliate at the time.

When Nurse got the Raptors’ head coaching occupation in June of 2018, Griffin was one particular of his to start with hires.

Nurse has constantly spoken extremely of his assistants and usually states that they’ll be head coaches in the league just one working day. Griffin has currently been in thing to consider. He’s interviewed for six head-coaching work opportunities, which include the Grizzlies gig – which went to Taylor Jenkins – previous summer season.

When there is not a great deal to glean from Griffin’s head coaching debut – he’s still managing Nurse’s method after all – this was more about providing a valued member of the staff a perfectly-deserved chance, having him some reps, and sending a message to any group that may have a emptiness in the around potential: he’s prepared.

“Just like when athletes and basketball gamers are instruction in the summer, you will find almost nothing evaluating to video game [action],” Griffin stated just before the sport. “You can get the job done out all you want, but until eventually you get in all those online games and you get up and down the court, you will find a variance. And I think it is the identical way. It’s genuinely equal to an assistant coach relocating in excess of to that chair. You do all the instruction that you can and observe but it can be fantastic to get all those game reps.”

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It’s a little something the Raptors have finished well underneath staff president Masai Ujiri – empowering their own, providing them each individual chance to realize success, and rewarding them when they do. Which is how you develop a winning lifestyle.

Sure, it signifies you are likely to get rid of some very good players and staff to other teams alongside the way – take into account how quite a few coaches and execs have been poached from the San Antonio Spurs machine over the a long time. Having said that, when you are establishing talent all through your group – from major to bottom – the machine keeps functioning.

“I feel mentor [Nurse] is an wonderful human getting,” Griffin reported. “He understands that a mentor like me wants some reps at remaining a head mentor. He knows my ambitions and he wishes to see me develop as an particular person on and off the courtroom. Undoubtedly just an magnificent gesture by coach. He approached me with it and it just kinda exhibits what form of character that mentor Nurse has. We have a to start with-class business for a explanation. You get started from the leading with Masai and Bobby and coach Nurse. There’s a explanation why we have had results about the several years.”

“It’s crucial,” Lowry explained. “I mean we have been continually having much better just about every time that I’ve been listed here, and that’s from top to bottom. When you are on the same webpage from best to bottom it tends to make lifetime a lot simpler. It can make every thing a large amount smoother. We have acquired fellas like Bobby, who commenced at a single position and he’s now right here, Masai commenced somewhere, mentor started out somewhere, I commenced somewhere, Norm, Freddie. It just exhibits the advancement of the business. Our culture is all about successful and uplifting the future individual.”

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