When Kawhi Leonard left the Toronto Raptors on Fourth of July weekend, he single-handedly deconstructed the reigning NBA champions, reconfigured the Western Conference power structure, upended the Oklahoma City Thunder, revived the Los Angeles Clippers, one-upped LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers and all but declared himself the most powerful man in basketball.
It was a decision and a move that warranted undivided attention, particularly from the Raptors organization, which had attempted to lock up the reigning Finals MVP and beloved Toronto icon. Head coach Nick Nurse, who closely worked with Leonard en route to the Raptors’ first championship, figured to be especially glued to the situation considering the outcome would completely define Toronto’s chances at a 2019-20 repeat.
So where was Nurse when he got the news Kawhi was gone, and what did he do?
Why, he was in Las Vegas, of course, and he kicked back, relaxed and enjoyed “Purple Rain,” the Prince tribute show at the Tropicana Hotel.
Nurse wasn’t alone in Vegas, joining other NBA coaches in attendance at Summer League, but his visit to Legends in Concert Theater for Prince impersonator Jason Tenner’s late-night performance just so happened to coincide with Kawhi’s anticipated free agent decision.
“He told me he was watching a Prince impersonator at the Tropicana when the text came in about Kawhi choosing the Clippers,” ESPN’s Rachel Nichols tweeted this week. “He said he read it, shrugged and figured he might as well stay and enjoy the rest of the show.”
You have to wonder how much Nurse’s mind wandered during the second half of Prince’s greatest hits.