At the conclusion of the Los Angeles Lakers’ disappointing 2021-22 campaign, the front office elected to part ways with head coach Frank Vogel, who helped lead the team to the NBA championship in 2020.
The Lakers’ head coaching vacancy is a polarizing topic, as the opportunity to work for one of the NBA’s most historic franchises gets a bit offset by an aging roster with little to no wiggle room in cap space for free agency and trades. Add that to the fact that they have no draft picks this season and the options to improve the roster are limited at best aside from the superstar tandem of LeBron James and Anthony Davis getting healthy for next season.
Even with that being said, those points won’t stop the Lakers from trying to pursue top-tier candidates to fill the opening, and one name that popped up in the rumor mill shortly after Vogel’s firing was Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse.
According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, Nurse was “among the franchise’s top targets for the position,” but in his exit interview for the 2021-22 season on Monday, the Raptors head coach shot down any chance of leaving Toronto for Los Angeles.
“I don’t know where that stuff comes from and I’m focused on coaching this team,” Nurse told the media.
Nick Nurse on reports of the Lakers’ interest in him: “I don’t know where that stuff comes from and I’m focused on coaching this team.”
— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) May 2, 2022
MORE: Lakers’ offseason outlook: What’s next for LA?
Nurse went on to praise what he has with the Raptors, speaking on why he believes they should be a destination for free agents in the future.
“Jeez, I think we got a lot to offer here,” Nurse stated. “We’ve got a winning team, great fans, first-class organization. I’d want to play here.”
He also noted his relationship with team president Masai Ujiri as another reason things are working so well in Toronto.
“Masai and I have a great relationship, mostly because we want to win championships,” Nurse said. “… That goes a long way in synergy. He has conversations with me about coaching and I have conversations with him about the roster.”
Nurse is coming off of his fourth season as head coach of the Raptors, leading the team to its third playoff appearance under his reign. Even after falling in the first round, this season could only be seen as an overachievement for a team that many did not have pegged as a playoff roster at the start of the year.
MORE: Raptors’ offseason outlook: What’s next for Toronto?
With the consistency of getting the most out of his teams, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Nurse is a target for the Lakers. On top of being one of the best coaches in the NBA since taking over the Raptors in 2018-19, Nurse has the pedigree the Lakers are searching for in Vogel’s successor as a one-time Coach of the Year and NBA champion.
It’s also worth noting that Nurse is represented by Klutch Sports Group — the same management team that has the Lakers’ two biggest stars, James and Davis, on their roster.
Even if Los Angeles did try to pry Nurse from Toronto, it wouldn’t be easy. The Raptors would have to give Los Angeles permission to interview Nurse and he would likely have to be acquired by trade.
As mentioned at the top, the Lakers don’t have many valuable assets available for trade and after coming off of the most disappointing seasons in the NBA this year, it’s hard to believe Nurse would elect to leave his current situation in Toronto.
Nurse signed a multi-year contract extension with the Raptors in 2020 and still has two more years left on his deal. It’s also worth noting that Nurse just signed a contract extension this past August to remain head coach of Canada Men’s Basketball’s National Team through 2024.