NBA teams were aggressive in poaching assistant coaches away from Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse last year, as they figured that some of the pixie dust that helped boost Toronto in their championship run in 2019 could rub off on their respective teams. This is a big reason why Nate Bjorkgren was hired to coach the Indiana Pacers.
Looking for an offensive-minded coach that could help this team overcome Nate McMillan’s postseason failures, Bjorkgren did manage to improve Indiana’s offense, but their defensive shortcomings and struggles in the clutch limited them to a play-in spot. While they ended up in the lottery, McMillan took the Hawks to the Conference Finals.
Bjorkgren was fired after just one season, both due to poor performance and reports from the likes of Adrian Wojnarowski that claim he alienated the locker room. Bjorkgren hasn’t been hired in any official capacity yet, but he did manage to make an appearance at Raptors training camp.
Per Eric Koreen of The Athletic, Bjorkgren is back with the Raptors in camp as a consultant. The role sounds vague with regards to how he will actually impact the team, but it appears as though he is trying to head back to his comfort zone and link back up with Nurse once again.
Nate Bjorkgren is helping out the Toronto Raptors.
A long-time Nurse confidant, Bjorkgren got his start as an assistant under Nurse with the old Iowa Energy in the D-League. Bjorkgren made the jump to the NBA with the Suns in 2015, serving under a current Raptors assistant in Earl Watson. Bjorkgren was an assistant in Toronto from 2018 to 2020.
After nearly a half-decade of consecutive playoff appearances, Bjorkgren led Indiana to a ninth-place finish, and while the likes of Caris LeVert and Domantas Sabonis balled out, that wasn’t enough to impact the win column.
Bjorkgren recently served as an assistant under Nurse with Team Canada in their Olympic qualifying. Even after last year, Nurse has apparently not lost confidence in him.
Some of the stories that leaked about Bjorkgren painted him as a very commanding presence that some players didn’t mesh with. Nurse claims that anything related to the raptors in that story was “100% false” while claiming he and Bjorkgren are still friends.
Bjorkgren’s stock as a coach has never been lower, and the notion that he may have lost the locker room in Indiana with his demeanor is a concerning statement, but Bjorkgren has received some support in the past from Raptors stars like Kyle Lowry.
Returning to Nurse might help Bjorkgren get one last chance in the NBA, even if it is just on a very low scale right now.