(WTVO/WQRF) — Fred VanVleet will never forget all that happened to him and his Toronto Raptors teammates last season, a season that ended in an NBA championship. But with a new season here the Rockford native and the Raptors are starting over.
And they are starting over without their best player from last season Kawhi Leonard. He’s now with the Clippers. VanVleet told reporters that there’s not any one guy who can make up for the loss of Leonard.
“Everybody’s got to try to take it up a notch together and that’ll boost our team, and sprinkle in some of the new guys, some of the young guys and hopefully we’ve got a shot to be a great team.”
VanVleet turned his game up a notch and then some in the NBA Finals in June when he averaged 14 points per game, and he came through with 22 points in the game-six clincher. That performance earned him a lot of respect around the league.
“I think the respect I’m getting from my peers and from opposing teams and franchises and GMs around the league over the last few years has grown,” says VanVleet. “I think that people are starting to see it a little bit, but it’ll always be the same. I’m never going to be a Darling so to speak and I’m not sure I really want that either. I like to go out there and put everything on the line every time I lace them up, and that’s something that gives me a competitive advantage.”
VanVleet is entering the final season of his two-year contract. That’s not something he wants to dwell right now.
“We’ll re-evaluate everything at the end of this year. If everything goes well and we win and everyone plays great and everybody’s happy then you move into the next phase of your contract as a pro. I’m never going to hurt the team in terms of what I want individually. That always comes after our team goals, but those goals are there as well.”
“As long as you put the team first everything else will work itself out.”