Nick Nurse defends Kawhi Leonard after he shows rust in Raptors debut

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The Kawhi Leonard era at the Toronto Raptors officially begun on Saturday when the team played against the Portland Trail Blazers.

The Raptors will be happy with how their new forward performed on the court, but it was clear to see that there is plenty of rust that needs to be removed before the start of the 2018-19 season.

Leonard logged 19 minutes on the court and didn't shoot particularly well, missing all four 3-pointers and going just 6-of-11 from the free throw line. He finished the game with just 12 points.

This was the former San Antonio Spurs star's first game since January earlier this year after being limited to just nine games last season because of a thigh injury.

Raptors head coach Nick Nurse reflected on Kawhi's performance after the game, stating that while his performance was a promising start, there's still some rust that needs to be removed.

Nurse said, via Jon Azpiri of Global News: “I think everybody saw Kawhi was shaking off some rust but you can obviously see the level that he has.

“He was just playing off instincts a little bit and he saw some gaps and he took them and they came pretty hard… and he bounced right back up.”

Kawhi did provide some highlight-reel plays and a glimmer of what's to come during the regular season at the Raptors. He was able to help his team beat the Trail Blazers 122-104.

The forward reflected on his performance after the game as well, and he made it clear that it's going to take some time for him to find his rhythm on the court again to play at his full potential.

Kawhi played well but still showed some rust in his Raptors debut

Leonard said, via ESPN: "Yeah, you know it's going to take time to get my rhythm, but I felt great being out there and just being able to compete. It was important just for me getting acclimated to the team.

"Like I was saying, in game play calls, seeing what everyone does on the floor, so it was important."

Toronto plays next on Tuesday against the Utah Jazz.

Kawhi Leonard
Toronto Raptors

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