There have been shades of disrespect from various media members thrown towards the Toronto Raptors during the offseason following their championship run. For all the potshots by pundits and absurd power rankings, the players and coaches that are in the league know all the work that goes in to winning a ring and what that means for the players that remain on the team.
For Houston Rockets forward PJ Tucker, seeing the Raptors make a championship run served as a reminder of just how close he could have been to sharing a part in the success.
“Wow. I was just there,” he told Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun. “I was just there and I knew all those guys. All those guys worked really hard, good players, they deserved it.”
Tucker did two tours of duty with the Raptors, he was a second-round draft pick of the team in 2003, and played 17 games three years later before being cut. He returned as a February trade acquisition for the 2017 playoff run, his first taste of the postseason. The Raptors made an effort to bring him back after that offseason, but he chose to sign with the Rockets.
Raptors head coach Nick Nurse also has a tie to the Rockets organization, as he served as head coach of the team’s D-League affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. Nurse was on the bench from 2011-13, culminating — of course — in the 2013 D-League Championship.
“Any coach, I don’t care how long he’s been there, to win a championship is not easy. So kudos to him,” Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni said of Nurse. “But you know Nick has been around, it’s his first season as the head coach, but he was with them for six years so his learning curve was already good. Nick’s a great coach and did a great job.”
As for the players tasked with running back the title, D’Antoni isn’t writing them off as quickly as some of the media ranks.
“They’re one of the teams again, that even without Kawhi Leonard will be contending for a title,” D’Antoni said. “They have a lot of players that can play.”
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