ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF) –These are unusual times for Rockford’s favorite NBA player Fred VanVleet. He’s done nothing but win his entire life, but right now his Toronto Raptors are struggling.
When VanVleet was at Auburn High School he led the Knights to the State Tournament. At Wichita State he was on a Final Four team. In the NBA’s Developmental League he won a league championship. And with the Raptors two years ago he was an NBA Champion. Losing is not something he’s accustomed to.
But right now the Raptors are off to a 1-5 start.
“This is probably unchartered territory for most of us. Just speaking for myself I’ve never been a part of something like this,” said VanVleet during a Zoom Conference after the Raptors loss Monday night to the Celtics.
Ironically VanVleet is off to a fantastic start individually. He’s averaging almost 22 points per game. That leads the Raptors and it ranks 26th in the NBA. His last three games VanVleet is averaging 29 points. That includes a 35 point outburst Monday night against the Celtics. But stats aren’t what excite VanVleet. It’s wins. And as a leader on the Raptors he feels the burden and responsibility of trying to lead the team out of this rough start.
“That’s my job. I’ve got to do a better job than what I’ve been doing. I’ve got to keep trying to lead, finding new ways to help guys.”
The offseason losses of big men Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka have hurt the Raptors, and not being able to play in Toronto doesn’t help. The Raptors are hunkered down in Tampa playing their home games.
“There’s a long list of excuses we could use to be honest, but there’s no growth there. You can’t lock into that way of thinking.” “We can’t crack. I think as a leader of this team that’s something that I’m disappointed in myself is not keeping the guys, I guess not bringing the fight a little bit more.”
VanVleet certainly has known the good times in his basketball career. This is not one of them. He’s always bet on himself. He’s not about to stop betting on himself now or on his teammates.
“It’s a heart-breaking game. When things are going great it’s great. When things are going bad it hurts. This stuff keeps me up at night.” “It’s tough to be in this position, but we’ve still got a long way to go. We’ve got a lot of season in front of us.”
The Raptors next game will be played Wednesday night in Phoenix.