In part two of News 4 Sports’ sit down with TSN NBA analyst Jack Armstrong, they talk about Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green’s destruction of the dynasty in Miami with the ‘Big Three,” the greatness of Kyle Lowry, head coach Nick Nurse and Raptors super fan Drake.
Nick Filipowski: Going back to Kawhi and Danny with their time and the Spurs. They faced a juggernaut in the Miami Heat back in 2014. They knocked them off in five games. That was the end of that dynasty. Is this Raptors team, one of the teams that can knock off the two-time defending champs?
Jack Armstrong: “Well, the Raptors beat the Warriors twice this year. Not only that, in the years prior to that, don’t necessarily look at the scores, look at how they were played. The games were widely entertaining and competitive. So, when I look at the Raptors matching up with the Warriors, I feel confident that these games are going to super competitive and entertaining. Are the Raptors going to win? I don’t have a clue. I’m not Jimmy the Greek or Nostradamus here. But I’ll say, I really feel confident going into the series that the Raptors can play on the same court as the champs and be competitive and eventually win the series. You’re going to have to play really well to beat them.”
In terms of the NBA finals. You’ve mentioned the highs and lows this franchise has been on to get through the East and to this moment. A guy like Kyle Lowry who has been through all that, how happy are you for him?
JA: “I’m thrilled for Kyle Lowry because he’s the quintessential winner. I think that in a day-in-age of analytics, I think we lose sight of other elements of paly that impact winning. But, he gets a tremendous amount of deflections, diving on loose balls, the top guy in the NBA taking charges. For a little guy, he’ll go in there and rebound with the big fellas. He’ll guard in the post. He’ll do whatever it takes. He’ll make the right play, and the signature defining play in terms of the pass that he makes or the screen that he’ll set. A lot of times you just can’t quantify that. He’s a bulldog competitor.
Obviously, Kawhi Leonard will probably elevate to the top to the all-time great Raptors, even though he’s only played there one year. But, if I had to pick a guy right in that category, with all due respect to Vince Carter, and Chris Bosh and Demar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry in my book is the second greatest player to ever play for the Raptors because he has impacted winning.
You look at the last six years of the Raptors, they’ve been in the playoffs the last six years and the constant is him. Other guys might have talent, and they might win the beauty contest but nobody wins better than him.”
Nick Nurse. How do you put into words what he’s been able to do with this team?
JA: “He took over for a guy who did a fabulous job in Dwayne Casey, coach of the year, have a lot of respect for. A tremendous foundational coach who showed these guys how to win and brought them along the way. Nick has built off that. I think he makes adjustments, does a fabulous job coaching all aspects of it. He has a reputation of being an offensive savant, but if you look at the Raptors this playoff, their defense has been their calling card. I think the guy can coach all phases. I think if you’re going to be a successful head coach, you have to coach all phases, you have to be tremendous CEO, a tremendous leader.”
Is Drake ‘super fan’ or is Drake crazy?
JA: “I think Drake is a super fan. I’ve spoken to Drake a lot over the years about basketball. There’s a line I use about a lot of fans. ‘They’re a mile wide, but they’re an inch thick.’ They know a little but they don’t know a lot. Drake is different than that. Drake is an educated basketball fan who watches the games, and he’ll be on tour and he’ll tape the games or stream them and he’ll come back and I’ll see him at games or halftime or whatever, and he’ll chat about something two weeks ago. He’s really into it. He’s passionate about the Raptors, the city of Toronto that he grew up in. He can talk ball. Not just the Raptors, but the NBA. He’s into it and he’s an educated basketball fan.
Are there times he’s overly enthusiastic, yeah, but I’d rather reel someone in than a lot of people that go to these NBA games that sit and look at their phone, eat sushi and talk about their stock portfolio. Those are the people I want to give a kick to the you know what and get them out of there. Drake has a love and passion for the city and I love it.”