Former Bulls player and coach Adrian Griffin is making an impact in Toronto
by K.C. Johnson
Raptors coach Nick Nurse first met Adrian Griffin in 2007, when Griffin played for the Bulls and Nurse coached the Iowa Energy, the Bulls’ D League affiliate.
“I spent a lot of time with him there,” Nurse said Sunday.
Two weeks after the Raptors tabbed Nurse to replace the fired Dwane Casey, Nurse hired Griffin as his lead assistant coach. It’s the fifth coaching stop for Griffin, who worked on Tom Thibodeau’s staff for five seasons has been a finalist for head coaching positions.
“He’s 20 years in the league now,” Nurse said. “He brings experience from the player side. He has really worked with some great coaches. He has a really outstanding defensive pedigree. He’s a good person and a stabilizing force for some of our young players.”
Jim Boylen spent two seasons in San Antonio with Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, the main pieces the Raptors acquired in the surprising July trade of DeMar DeRozan.
“It’s about the team there first. It’s about following your assignments to help the team win. That’s all they talk about. And those two guys are great at it,” Boylen said of the Spurs’ influence on Leonard and Green. “Danny Green is a 3-and-D guy, a great shotblocker. He does a lot at the defensive end that people don’t talk about. And Kawhi Leonard is as good a two-way player as I’ve ever seen or been around.”
The Raptors played without Kyle Lowry, who sat with a sore back. It’s the second straight game the Bulls avoided seeing an All-Star guard after missing John Wall on Friday in Washington. Wall will undergo season-ending surgery next week. Lowry is expected back soon.
“We’re positive and hopeful that it’s going in the right direction,” Nurse said.
Head athletic trainer Jeff Tanaka stayed at the team hotel with the flu. … Boylen said Bobby Portis “had a good day” Saturday and improved, but the coach has “no idea” when the forward will return. Portis sprained his right ankle on Dec. 19, and the Bulls said he’d miss two to four weeks. “I can tell with that look in his eye that he feels he made big strides,” Boylen said of his Portis’ Saturday workout. … As part of the rotating cast of play-by-play announcers calling select games for Neil Funk alongside Stacey King, longtime NBC Sports Chicago host and astute basketball mind Mark Schanowski worked Sunday’s game. Coincidentally, Funk turned 72 on Saturday.