Nick Nurse wants to set the record straight. The stories about Nate Bjorkgren being difficult to deal with while a member of the Toronto Raptors' coaching staff are "100% false."
The former Raptors assistant coach has been under fire recently as a series of reports have surfaced suggesting that Bjorkgren has rubbed some of his Indiana Pacers players the wrong way this season. ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, The Athletic's Shams Charania and Sam Amick, and Bleacher Report's Jake Fischer have written about the turmoil within the Pacers locker room. While Nurse can't speak to whatever is going on inside the Pacers organization this year, he said it's been tough to see his longtime colleague and friend take so much flak lately.
"My thoughts are that it’s certainly no fun for him and it’s no fun for me to see one of my best friends go through that," Nurse said Thursday night. "It hurts to see him go through it."
The bigger issue for Nurse, however, is the reporting.
Bleacher Report's story suggested that Bjorkgren has a long track record of being difficult to work with. One former G League player reportedly told Fischer that Bjorkgren is "stubborn, won't listen, even though it might be good conversation. He's a micromanager and he's not for everyone." Another former G League colleague reportedly told Fischer that Bjorkgren was known to "erupt at players and staffers without a moment's notice." With the Raptors, Bjorkgren was supposedly known to police communication within the team before it got to Nurse because he wanted to be in control, another anonymous source told Fischer.
A very frustrated Nurse said those reports are total lies.
"This is the age we live in, I’m not real crazy [about] the journalistic integrity. I mean, they find a former G League player, who knows who it was, they won’t name anybody, it’s a former Western Conference exec, nothing’s legitimate to me," Nurse said.
"And that doesn’t matter. Doesn’t matter. It’s out there and everybody starts running with it. I know there some section I was made aware of today that involved his time at Toronto and that was 100% false. It was absolutely a bald-faced lie, what they printed."
The reporting certainly runs counter to what Raptors players said about Bjorkgren when he departed the organization.
"Nate is one of the best coaches I've ever been around in my short life and he's an even better person," Fred VanVleet said earlier this year. "So, from day one when he showed up to Toronto and he worked me and Greg Monroe out before I even knew who he was, he treated me as if I was Kawhi Leonard and he kept that from day one all the way to the end and our relationship grew over time."
On a follow-up about Bjorkgren back in January VanVleet doubled down and went even further to sing his former assistant coach's praise.
"I'm telling you it's hard not to like Nate. If you don't like Nate, you’re crazy, there’s something wrong with you," VanVleet said.