October 21, 2021

The Queens County Citizen

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

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

TORONTO – The Toronto Raptors are as great as any firm in basketball at producing and empowering talent. It’s one of the most important good reasons for their sustained achievement about the earlier seven decades.

For evidence of that, you just had to glance close to the health and fitness center late in Wednesday’s comeback 125-121 win about the Philadelphia 76ers.

In the spectators’ segment, assistant-turned-head coach Nick Nurse looked on when sitting following to Bobby Webster – the basic manager, who has labored his way up the team’s entrance business office hierarchy.

On the court, five men who performed much more minutes in the G League than with the NBA club this time pulled out the victory, even though the starters cheered them on and celebrated from the sideline. That team integrated a number of homegrown solutions that have blossomed into NBA stars or rotation gamers, these kinds of as Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, Norman Powell, OG Anunoby and Chris Boucher.

Then, on the bench, there was Adrian Griffin.

With the Raptors previously locked into the East’s second seed and their first-spherical matchup towards Brooklyn set, Nurse made a decision to cede head coaching obligations to Griffin, a single of his direct assistants, for the penultimate standard season sport in the NBA bubble.

The consequence didn’t matter substantially in regards to the standings, but it was a evening – and a earn – that Griffin won’t soon ignore.

“You actually just can’t place it into words and phrases,” the 46-yr-old basketball lifer claimed later on. “It truly touches me. You know, these fellas we go to war with them, we received a championship together, the highs and lows and they’re your household, they are your brothers out there.”

“First, I have to thank mentor Nurse. He didn’t have to do this. Truthfully, for a person night time I felt like Cinderella. I experienced the glass slippers on and it was fantastic. Tomorrow it’s back to actuality but it was an brilliant experience.”

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

Rookie Dewan Hernandez, who experienced only logged 11 NBA minutes coming in, drilled his initial a few-pointer as a professional and then drove to the rim and finished by way of call. Matt Thomas hit a 3 and sparingly employed forward Stanley Johnson forced a Philadelphia turnover on the following possession.

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The Raptors’ bench was loving it – erupting right after each and every bucket and exchanging some fantastic-natured trash speak with Philly’s starters. For a match that shouldn’t have intended substantially to possibly staff – the Sixers are locked into the sixth seed and will perform Boston in Round 1 – there was an exhilaration to these closing times.

The match was tied with 18 seconds remaining, providing Griffin the chance to attract up a successful engage in.

Off the inbounds move, Johnson split double protection to get in the lane and find Hernandez, whose floater was blocked. The ball came again to Johnson, who flipped it in to give Griffin his initial victory as an NBA head coach.

“He did an unbelievable work,” stated Kyle Lowry, who only played 25 minutes, but scored 18 of his 19 details in the second quarter. “Hopefully mentor Griffin will get a prospect to be a head mentor soon. We’ll skip him, but with any luck , he receives his option to be a head mentor. We gave him a little bit of a water shower. We forgot to get him the basketball but he’ll have a lot more wins to come and he’ll get that basketball.”

“We were being definitely excited for him,” said Powell, who started off in put of the resting Anunoby and scored 17 factors. “We wanted to go out there and enjoy tricky and aid him get his get as a head mentor. I believed we did that through the game. When factors weren’t heading as very well, when we did not get the contact or pictures weren’t heading in, a couple of defensive breakdowns, he really voiced his opinion on what we wanted to do to get far better. He had a robust voice in the huddle and I consider the fellas truly rallied all around that, especially at the conclude of the video game, participating in really hard, enjoying their hearts out for AG. That displays what sort of human being he is and what kind of players we have on this crew.”

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Griffin has compensated his dues in the league more than the past two many years. Just after a 9-calendar year playing profession, he’s been an assistant coach with 5 teams – Milwaukee, Chicago, Orlando, Oklahoma City, and now Toronto – in 11 seasons. Griffin was performing for the Bulls when he very first achieved Nurse, who was coaching Chicago’s D-League affiliate at the time.

When Nurse obtained the Raptors’ head coaching occupation in June of 2018, Griffin was a single of his 1st hires.

Nurse has usually spoken extremely of his assistants and frequently says that they’ll be head coaches in the league one working day. Griffin has previously been in thought. He’s interviewed for six head-coaching jobs, including the Grizzlies gig – which went to Taylor Jenkins – very last summer.

Whilst there isn’t a great deal to glean from Griffin’s head coaching debut – he’s nonetheless jogging Nurse’s system following all – this was far more about giving a valued member of the personnel a nicely-deserved chance, finding him some reps, and sending a concept to any workforce that may possibly have a emptiness in the close to upcoming: he’s prepared.

“Just like when athletes and basketball players are education in the summer season, there is certainly very little comparing to video game [action],” Griffin reported just before the match. “You can get the job done out all you want, but right until you get in people video games and you get up and down the courtroom, you can find a distinction. And I think it truly is the very same way. It truly is truly equivalent to an assistant mentor shifting over to that chair. You do all the teaching that you can and practice but it is really good to get individuals activity reps.”

It’s a little something the Raptors have done effectively beneath team president Masai Ujiri – empowering their personal, providing them each prospect to realize success, and fulfilling them when they do. That is how you build a profitable society.

Sure, it usually means you are likely to drop some great players and personnel to other groups together the way – consider how a lot of coaches and execs have been poached from the San Antonio Spurs machine above the many years. On the other hand, when you are developing talent in the course of your firm – from major to bottom – the equipment keeps functioning.

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“I feel coach [Nurse] is an amazing human becoming,” Griffin explained. “He understands that a mentor like me desires some reps at staying a head coach. He appreciates my ambitions and he needs to see me expand as an individual on and off the courtroom. Definitely just an brilliant gesture by coach. He approached me with it and it just kinda displays what sort of character that mentor Nurse has. We have a initially-class firm for a explanation. You get started from the leading with Masai and Bobby and mentor Nurse. You can find a cause why we’ve had achievement around the yrs.”

“It’s essential,” Lowry stated. “I signify we’ve been constantly getting far better every year that I’ve been in this article, and that’s from top rated to bottom. When you are on the identical web site from prime to bottom it can make lifetime a good deal less difficult. It can make almost everything a lot smoother. We have received fellas like Bobby, who started at one posture and he’s now in this article, Masai begun someplace, mentor started off somewhere, I started somewhere, Norm, Freddie. It just demonstrates the development of the organization. Our culture is all about profitable and uplifting the next human being.”