Nick Nurse says Kawhi Leonard made an impression on Pascal Siakam and Raptors

Farbod Esnaashari

Through winning a championship with Kawhi Leonard, the Toronto Raptors have matured into a legitimate championship team without him. 

Two years ago, the Toronto Raptors carried the stigma of being an underachieving team. They could never get over the hump, whether it was Paul Pierce or LeBron James. Last year, Kawhi Leonard changed all of that when he won an NBA Championship with them. Leonard left a lasting impact on the Raptors, that the team carries today.

"Kawhi was a great pro in a lot of facets," Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said. "I think he understood the workday, he took care of his body, he did everything he needed to do skill-wise, he was locked in as a teammate and a coachable guy. That’s one of the things you’ve probably heard me say a lot is I was always super impressed with his eye contact seemingly was always there, in every meeting, film session, timeout, halftime. You know, he was nodding along with what you were saying and that for a young-ish coach is good, right, it helps you. Those kinds of things, his demeanor, his defensive mindset. Geez, what else?"

What Nick Nurse appreciated most about Kawhi Leonard was how coachable and engaged he was. He made it easy for a young coach like himself to do this job. Nurse hopes that those characteristics, and Kawhi's stoic demeanor, made a lasting impact on the team.

"The way he handled the ups and downs, he didn’t show much emotion," Nurse said. "I think there’s a lot there to like, learn from, and hopefully sticks with some of our younger guys."

In terms of specific players that learned from the Kawhi Leonard knowledge tree, Nurse believes some of them include: Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, and Norman Powell. While those three were already serious workers to begin with, Nurse believes Leonard's professionalism rubbed off on them.

"I think it made an impression on Pascal, I think it made an impression on OG as well, for sure, maybe Norman Powell as well," Nurse said. "But again those guys, for the most part, especially Pascal and Norm, that have been around a little while, they were pretty good workers and professional anyway, OG was the younger that maybe learned a bit more from him."

The 2020 Toronto Raptors are a legitimate threat to win the NBA Championship. No one expected them to be this good without Kawhi Leonard, but they are. If Leonard wins with the LA Clippers, one can only imagine the impact it'll have on that franchise and its players.