(WTVO/WQRF)–Fred VanVleet is headed into his offseason. The Toronto Raptors season ended this week when they were eliminated from the playoffs by the 76ers.
For VanVleet individually it was a season of great achievements and a season of frustration. The frustration came from a pair of injuries. The Rockford native had soreness in his right knee that developed before the All-Star break and lingered the remainder of the season. Then in the playoffs in game four he strained his left hip and he had to sit out games five and six.
VanVleet told reporters in Toronto Friday that he will push himself to do whatever he can to try to keep his body healthy in the future.
“I’ll get better. I’ll continue to work on my body and find different ways to be creative and be better and be more healthy, be stronger and fit. I take full responsibility for that. That is what it is. I certainly don’t want to be missing playoff games, but I’m watching a lot of basketball and injuries are happening.”
There were a lot of positives for VanVleet personally this season. He averaged a career-high 20.3 points per game and a career-high 6.7 assists per game. He set a franchise record for three-point baskets made in a season. He had his first NBA triple-double. He was named the NBA’s Player of the Week, and he was selected to play in the NBA All-Star game. All that means more will be expected from VanVleet in the future.
“I think I’m at that crossroads where like 20 points isn’t a good game anymore. I went from like underrated, undrafted to overrated, like very fast, so I’ve got to start getting outside the box, you know what I mean? I’ve got to start doing things that I’ve never done before. I’ve got to get uncomfortable. I’ve got to find ways to get better, so I can say at least I’ve done everything that I possibly could.”
But it’s not individual achievements VanVleet craves. It’s championships.
“All those things are geat and cool and everything, but nothing compares to winning a championship, and I want to be known as a championship player, and everything else will fall where it is. We can add the stats and the accolades up at the end when I’m retired, but I think that’s my number one goal is getting us back to a championship level.”
The Raptors surprised a lot of people by finishing the regular season with a record of 48-34 and capturing the number five seed in the Eastern Conference despite losing free agent guard Kyle Lowry last summer. VanVleet sees a strong core that’s in place in Toronto that bodes well for the future.
“I think we have the pieces, and now how do you put those pieces together? Can you add a few pieces around the board, and then how do you make it work? How does it make the most sense to be the most efficient, the most lethal team that you can put out on the floor, and I think we can definitely get better without adding anything.”
“Whether we add some more shooting or a big that would obviously help, but I think the team that we have right now if we just play it a little bit better and smarter, and more, I think we could use our strengths a little bit better, and that’s something we’ll address as players in the offseason and try to come back next year.”