Raptors coach Nurse looking for more consistency this season from ‘unique’ Boucher – Victoria News

Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse says Chris Boucher is one of the NBA’s most unique players.

He can sprint to block three-point shots and stretch his six-foot span as an Inspector Gadget to send the ball sailing into the stands. He can fly to the edge and score on tip-in dunks.

“We, the coaching staff, appreciate the things he does and we try to get him to do those things because it’s really unique. Who blocks as many three-point attempts as Chris?” said nurse. “He brings energy (and) he plays much harder than his (skinny 200-pound) body could look.”

But the enigmatic Boucher has been wildly inconsistent.

“There have always been ups and downs with his performance, his luck, minutes, all that sort of thing…which is also part of the growth process,” Nurse said on day 2 of Raptors training camp at the University of Victoria.

“I think we accept that he won’t be great every night.

“There are those nights where he picks and pops and doesn’t hit, and he can’t live in that world, that’s always extra for us. (He’s got to) keep running, keep smashing the glass, keep blocking shots and stay that ghost, that ghost that he’s out there playing hard.

Montreal’s Boucher was the Raptors’ main free agent last season, signing a new three-year deal worth $35.25 million.

The new contract came after a roller coaster season that saw the six-foot-10 forward average 9.4 points and 6.2 rebounds per game off the bench.

But he sputtered out to a terrible first few months that bottomed out on Dec. 26 in Cleveland. Boucher was the oldest Raptor on an eight-man roster that night that was devastated by a COVID-19 outbreak. Toronto lost by 45 points.

Three months later, Boucher described it as “one of the worst games ever. My family wanted to shut down the TV, it was that bad.”

His improvement from that point on was impressive. Heading into the off-season with “a bitter taste after the playoffs,” Boucher spent much of the summer training with teammates from Toronto.

“I really wanted to do my job and make a big impact,” he said.

His goal for this season is consistency.

“I’ve seen both seasons. I’ve had a great defensive season and I’ve had a great offensive season in Tampa (in 2020-21). I’m just trying to put both together,” Boucher said.

Boucher averaged 13.6 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.9 blocks during the Raptors’ season he played out of Tampa, Florida, and had a number of big games, including a performance of 38 points and 19 rebounds against Chicago.

“I’ve spent a lot of time this summer working on (consistency on both sides), not to mention where I’m from, what I did when I was successful,” Boucher said.

Where he comes from is also one of the competition’s most unique stories.

Boucher famously drove a night bus as a homeless teenager. He dropped out of high school and worked as a chef at a Montreal chicken restaurant.

He tore his ACL in his senior NCAA season with the Oregon Ducks—and somehow played the rest of the game—then went on draft.

Boucher starred with Toronto’s G League affiliate Raptors 905, but earned G League MVP and Defensive Player of the Year in 2019.

He then signed a two-year $13.5 deal with Toronto in 2020 for the richest contract in NBA history for a Canadian to go unwritten.

The 29-year-old has some insight when it comes to current training camp players hoping to crack the Raptors roster.

“From me, a man like this, sometimes it’s hard to believe (in yourself),” Boucher said. “(But) if you’re here, you’re already doing something right, so that’s something I tell them, ‘You wouldn’t be here if they didn’t really like you.

“So, if you keep doing what they brought you here for, the door will usually open. That’s what I did.”

The Raptors close their camp on Friday. Toronto begins pre-season Sunday in Edmonton against the Utah Jazz.

Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press

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