Fred VanVleet on how teams are guarding him differently

Toronto Raptors point guard Fred VanVleet has noticed teams are keying in on him more and discusses ways he's had to adjust to the increase attention. Also, how impressed he's been with the Barnes-Siakam group that Nick Nurse has put on the floor when he rests.

Video Transcript

- Hi, Fred. thanks so much for joining us. We have a few questions here for you. We'll start with Mike Ganter from "The Sun".

MIKE GANTER: Hey, Fred. How are you doing?

FRED VANVLEET: Good. How are you?

MIKE GANTER: Good. Well, you mentioned the other day-- was is it your brother that was is your conditioning coach? Was that right?

FRED VANVLEET: No, I do my basketball with my brother. And then I have a strength and conditioning coach that we started working with the last two years.

MIKE GANTER: The conditioning coach, I mean how much more was the conditioning this past year knowing what you were in for?

FRED VANVLEET: It's funny because we didn't really do much cardio. You know what I mean? You just try to prep the body for the wear and tear and the load that you get. So we did a lot of just strengthening, and you know I dealt with some minor injuries. So trying to clean those up and just give my body a good chance to make it throughout the season.

I don't do a ton of like heavy lifting and stuff during the season. So just try to give you that foundation to go into the year and then just be able to maintain that throughout. But it's an every day-- you know, it's a everyday type of work that you've got to put in.

MIKE GANTER: Is the cardio, you just don't have to do that? You're just naturally sort of in shape most of the time or--

FRED VANVLEET: Yeah, well, I learned my lesson my first couple of years is just not get out of shape. That's the easiest way to stay in shape is to not get out of shape. So the last few years, I've been taking less and less time off and just kind of like easing my way in and out of, you know, workout mode instead of, you know, taking a hard break and then trying to ramp it back up.

But, yeah, I think conditioning is more so-- first of all, I think it's mental. And second of all, I think it's just coming to mind and just being able to be present in the moment and fight through when it gets tough. But, obviously, I do some conditioning. I'm not saying I don't. But I'm not running on the treadmill all summer getting ready for the season.

MIKE GANTER: Yeah, I got it. Do you look at minutes played, or do you even bother?

FRED VANVLEET: No, not anymore. [LAUGHS] Not anymore. I used to. But no, not anymore. I just usually go off how my body feels. Because sometimes like the other night, you know, that third quarter I had against Utah, that was probably a harder twelve minutes than, you know, a previous night or anything like that.

So sometimes you could play 45 minutes and don't feel bad, and sometimes you can play 33 minutes and feel like you just played-- ran a marathon. So it's just kind of-- I go off how my body feels.

MIKE GANTER: I got it. All right, I appreciate it, Fred. Thanks.

FRED VANVLEET: Thank you.

- And next we'll go to you, Doug Smith.

DOUG SMITH: Hello, Fred. Good morning. How are you today?

FRED VANVLEET: Good. How are you, Doug?

DOUG SMITH: I'm all right, thank you. Hey, I know last year, well, last couple of years, you're playing alongside Kyle. He got the ball out of your hands enough that you were able to get some rest during the game. How much has the emergence of Pascal and Scottie and even OG sort of not lessened your load but made it a little bit easier for you to play not having the ball as much?

FRED VANVLEET: Yeah, I mean it certainly helps. It's helping my scoring right now just to be honest, just to be able to play off the ball. And, you know, more than that, it's a different type of responsibility coming up the court having to run a play or get everybody in the right spot and make the play every single time whether that be a shot for myself or for a teammate.

So that's a different type of responsibility. And I did that some this year. I think in the big picture, I'm not sure that's probably our best, you know, option. So having those guys get up to speed and kind of emerge, the new guys. We've seen Pascal do it. But to have Scottie and other guys get more and more comfortable within our offense to make plays and take some of that responsibility, I think is best. You want as many playmakers out there as possible. It doesn't matter what position they're coming from.

DOUG SMITH: Right. And yet they sort of settled into some kind of rotation in the last six games where you played a full first quarter, take a couple of minutes, play the full third, and then maybe get some rest at the start of the fourth, or the entire fourth off as like other night. Has that made it better for you knowing exactly what your time is going to be on the floor?

FRED VANVLEET: Yeah, it's always easier when you have a rotation. I think that's been our challenge the last year, year and a half is just trying to keep a rotation with, you know, it's been so up and down, kind of the way that the season is going. You know there's nothing that's constant.

We have different lineups. We've got guys that, you know, just met 30 minutes before the game, you know, sometimes. So it's hard to keep a constant rotation. But I think having everybody back, we can kind of get into our natural flow. And, you know, coach is definitely going to let you play when you're hot. And that's certainly been the case, you know, in some of these games.

DOUG SMITH: Yeah. Does it, I don't know, settle your mind knowing going in each night, this is when I'm going to be on the floor, this is when I'm likely to be off the floor? Does it allow you to prepare any differently or better?

FRED VANVLEET: I think it's just easier just to find the rhythm and stay in the rhythm. It's not really different in terms of preparation. But, again, I think just mentally just being in rhythm and in sync and having a different flow and like approach to the game. And I've been coming out being aggressive, and it's been working. So I'm going to continue to do that until it doesn't.

But, yeah, I think just being in flow and in rhythm is definitely a part of like having a natural rotation. But, again, it's hard to do with the way that things have been.

DOUG SMITH: Great. Thanks very much, Fred. I appreciate it as always.

FRED VANVLEET: Thank you.

- And next we'll go to Josh.

- Hey, Fred. Thanks for doing this. Sort of building off of Doug's questions, the group that's in there when you have your rest minutes, they've been much better over the last week or so. I think they were plus 14 last night. How big has that been? Does that make it easier to come out of the game knowing that those guys can not only sort of tread water but maybe even take the lead and pump it out?

FRED VANVLEET: It's been great. Man, we've got to give those guys credit. That group that's been playing, there's been a couple of different guys, but it definitely changes the dynamic of the team. Because it's something that we haven't had so much this year. And there's been times when I haven't even wanted to go back in the game. Because those guys have been playing so well. So that's definitely a pleasant surprise.

And I think we can attribute that to, obviously, Pascal has been playing out of his mind lately. Chris Boucher has looked re-energized and refocused. [CLAPPING] We've got a lot of different role players that's been stepping up and filling those minutes.

- I want to ask, though, Chris, it seems like he's really stringing together some good solid performances. Maybe the numbers aren't huge. But like he's making better decisions, finding ways to make an impact. What are you seeing from him over the last couple of weeks that you've liked?

FRED VANVLEET: No, I mean I don't think for Chris, I don't really think it's about the numbers. I think it's just more so about his approach to the game and bringing, you know, he's got to be that energy, that spark off the bench. And he can do that in many different ways. It's not just throwing up 3's still.

I think the last, whatever, however many games we've been winning, Chris has been a huge part of that with his energy, his enthusiasm for the game, offensive rebounding, being active on defense, being in the right spot. He's been talking. And, you know, he's a heck of a player. And he brings something to the table that's unique to many NBA teams. So to have him at his best version, I think is definitely helping our team right now.

- Thanks, Fred. Enjoy the rest of the day.

FRED VANVLEET: Thank you.

- And next we'll go to Steven.

- Hey, Fred. It's good to see you.

I'm just curious, like, obviously, if you mentioned your scoring, and you've been taking a lot more shots than like seems like than usual. But like how does that help, you know, like a guy like Pascal get his own offense? Because he's also been putting up huge numbers as well.

FRED VANVLEET: I think just the dynamic of how it's been going really like. I just think about the Milwaukee game where they were kind of just guarding me in that back court. You know, I could just throw it ahead to Pascal and let them play four on four. So just trying to give Pascal more space and more opportunity, he's really tough to guard one on one.

But, obviously, anybody-- it's hard to score when you've got three, four, five guys showing help on you. So for me, with the way that I've been shooting the ball and scoring, I think we're helping each other. And him being a playmaker and, you know, handling the basketball, I think, it's helping my offense.

So just trying to play off each other, trying to set the tone, I think this is kind of the way that we envisioned that things would go. And it's going to be a back and forth, it's going to be different guys every night. But, obviously, me and P have been locked in together over the last couple of games. So it's big. It's big for our team. We've got to do it. You know, as the leaders of this team, we've got to go out there and perform. And I think we have a good chance when we do.

- Yeah. Do you guys have like discussions of like maybe synergy between you and Pascal and just like ways you can get each other going?

FRED VANVLEET: No. Not really. I think for me and him, it's, you know, we're like light years beyond that point. Now if there's certain things when things aren't working, or we want to try something else or different, then we'll have discussions in the game. But like 99% of the time, I know what he's going to do. And I'm pretty sure he feels the same about me.

So it's like we kind of know each other pretty well by now.

- OK. Thanks a lot.

FRED VANVLEET: Thank you.

- And next we'll go to Eric.

- Fred, thanks for taking the time. Appreciate it.

FRED VANVLEET: Thanks.

- You mentioned it with the comments about the Milwaukee game. But even last night in the second quarter, they had the rookie really glued to you. Have you noticed either on the ball or off the ball changes since your numbers have obviously been going way up? Have you noticed a difference in how teams are guarding you?

FRED VANVLEET: Absolutely. Absolutely. Again, a lot of attention, face guard, you know, you've seen a box of one a couple of times. So it's ironic for sure to say the least. But it's been fun. It's been a challenge to learn and to adapt and to have to stay locked in. Jose, last night, he did a great job, maybe in the third quarter. He guarded me pretty well, some possessions, and having to stay locked in, you know, with being frustrated, and come out, and try to put something together in the fourth.

So I'm just enjoying the challenge and embracing, you know, the ups and downs that's coming within the game and just trying to learn and get better every night.

- That go ahead shot last night, obviously, we see a very select number of players take that out of fast break, stepping back behind the arc. Is that something you need to be in this sort of rhythm and this sort of zone to take? Like are you taking that most times?

FRED VANVLEET: Oh, I don't know. Probably. I think so. Well, obviously, being in the rhythm that I'm in helps. You know what I mean? It's like it's not even a question. I didn't have to think about it. But maybe other nights, you know, I might have thought about it. But I just hit one. You know, I thought it was a good shot.

I take my chances back there versus trying to drive in there in the trees. And I was able to get one up, and it went down. So, you know, when it comes to shot selection, it's definitely been a journey for me throughout my career and something that I always feel like I can take and make the big.

- Appreciate it, Fred. Have a good afternoon.

FRED VANVLEET: Thanks.

- Two more here for you, Fred. First we'll go to Nikki.

- Hey, Fred. Thanks for joining us. Last night, Pascal was talking about how much more comfortable he is with the ball in his hands and kind of directing traffic. From your vantage point, how have you seen him grow in that department? And have you ever given him any tips, some advice?

FRED VANVLEET: Oh, yeah, I think just in passing and just seeing the reeds before it happens and just knowing kind of understanding what the defense is trying to do. So I just-- you know, Pascal is a sponge, and he wants to learn and continue to get better. And he's just such a natural talent.

So I always just try to give him confidence and give him help whenever he asks for it. But he's been figuring it out. And he's been reading the defense. He's had a lot of experience over the last couple of years as being one of the guys, you know, the top priority on the sky report. So continue to learn how to read the defenses and just, you know, sharpening up this skill work in terms of passing.

But, again, he's been in an incredible rhythm and flow to his game over the last however many games. And he's having a heck of a season for us.

- Awesome. Thanks, Fred. Have a good day.

FRED VANVLEET: Thank you. You too.

- Thanks.

- Last one for you you, Fred. We'll go to Aaron Rose.

AARON ROSE: Hey, Fred. I'll follow up Nikki's question a little bit. Did he convey to you sort of a desire to, I think, as he put it last night, not to be a traditional big in those first few years with you guys together? That he wanted to learn to play something like a point guard and play make more?

FRED VANVLEET: I don't remember that being a moment. But I think maybe by our second year, it was pretty clear on kind of how it was going to go. You know, whether that was in summer workouts or whatever, just having him bring the ball up the court and seeing him play in open space with the ball. You know, you could see, you could see it pretty early.

I always knew him as a back to the basket guy just because I played against him at New Mexico State. And he was a really, really, really good post player on the block. So once he started pushing the break and getting out of transition and stretching to the rim, you could see, you know, the vision of where it was going. And he was, obviously, a huge part of our bench mob success, having him be out there, making plays. And he's just continued to grow every year.

And he's continuing to get better. And, you know, I think the sky's the limit for him in terms of him being, you know, that point forward, you know, guy out on the break, making plays, and getting us in offense and getting us organized.

AARON ROSE: How hard is that development? How impressive is it to see a guy become as talented a playmaker as he has become?

FRED VANVLEET: You don't see it. You don't see it often. Usually, you know, guys like that they usually give them the keys right away and hope for the best. But for him to come in the way he did and to grow and to learn into that and continue to develop and put the work in every day, I think it's impressive. And it speaks to his work ethic and just his joy for the game, to continue to learn.

AARON ROSE: Thanks, Fred.

FRED VANVLEET: Thank you.

- Thanks, Fred.

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