Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet discusses returning from illness, Scottie Barnes’ perceived struggles and playing against Kyle Lowry.
- [INAUDIBLE] you were here, you said you wanted OG to be meaner defensively. You want to be meaner offensively, like you might have been tonight?
FRED VANVLEET: Yeah, I don't think he-- I don't know if he can be mean, but if he can do what he did tonight, we'll be all right. So it's about time, man. I think that's what everybody's been waiting on. So string them together. Now the next step is just consistency. And that's I think what we're all chasing to be is great on every night, every other night basis. So he's been incredible. It's great to see and just be there to keep encouraging him and keep pumping him with confidence because we're going to need that for the rest of the year.
- I know your night didn't start as well as you probably wanted it, but it ended. And you made six of your last seven, six of the last eight shots or something like that. Was that just getting the rust off, and the timing back, and that kind of stuff?
FRED VANVLEET: Yeah, I still feel like shit. So just when you're sick and you wake up and you feel better than the day before, you think you're 100%. So it took all about three minutes before I realized I wasn't 100% yet. But just happy to be back playing.
And just that was a lot of fun tonight. It was a competitive game. The Heat are always fun to play against. They do a lot of the same things we do. We have tremendous respect for them. So you know, it was just a fun night. And we were able would come out with the win.
- What have your-- since the game you've played in Oklahoma City, what have those days been like?
FRED VANVLEET: I mean, it's probably been a full week now. You know, I wasn't feeling the greatest in the Houston game. Travel, obviously, it gets worse and worse. And got myself ready to play in the OKC and that was probably the last of the energy that I had left. So all my tests came back negative. I was happy about that.
But just I think everyone I've talked to in the world is just the worst cold that we've had, right? And nobody's really had a cold in two years because we've been wearing masks. So it was my turn. And I hope that everybody can avoid it because it wasn't fun. But hopefully the worst is behind me and just happy to be back with the group.
- Nice bounce back from Scottie tonight. What's been the message to him over the last few games as he's sort of been dealing with a bit of a shooting slump?
FRED VANVLEET: There's no message, man. You guys have fun on Twitter. That's about it. Other than that, everybody goes through it.
There's highs. There's lows. There's good games. There's bad games. He's finding his way and just got to continue to keep working and keep playing.
Nobody around here is worried about him. We know how great of a player he's going to be. There's not any young player I would trade him for. And the sky's the limit for him. So whether that's tomorrow or in a couple years, we'll see.
The rest is up to him and how much work he puts in, and how he approaches the game. But he'll be fine. It's just every day banter when you've got to dissect every possession and every play. And I didn't really even realize that was a narrative until I was sitting at home watching the game, watching the Detroit game.
But yeah, it's a little overblown. He's got to get to it, obviously. He can play better. We all know that. But as far as like trying to make a conclusion about him as a player, I think is pretty ridiculous.
- We talk a lot about how you and Siakam make life easier on Scottie when you are in the lineup, right? But how much easier does he make it on you when he is playing with the kind of energy that he brought tonight and he's just kind of all over the floor on both ends?
FRED VANVLEET: Yeah, I mean, you guys know how aggressive I am. So any type of aggression, I welcome that with open arms. I think that's what the game is about you.
You've got to play with that fire, and that passion, and just impose your will, whatever that is for your game and for him. You could see it from the jump ball, pushing the tempo, pushing the pace, getting his body downhill, making plays for himself and for others. And when he does that, we're a better team.
Now again, everybody goes through different things to where it may not be there on a night to night basis. You just got to find out how to do that. Everybody has gone through it. He's 21-years-old, I think. So he'll find his way. But I was happy to see him more aggressive tonight.
- Do you like going up against Kyle or is it too frustrating? I mean, you two going at it.
FRED VANVLEET: No, it's funny. I don't-- it's funny for me. I don't get frightened. There's nothing he could do that would frustrate me. It's annoying when he tricks the refs, but.
Other than that, I mean, it's just fun watching him still do what he does. And I thought he was old three years ago. So to see him still kicking, and making an impact, and putting pressure on the defense, and just, you could just see the greatness in him. And it's just fun to match up against him. And just he keeps you working and keeps your mind. You got to be attentive at all times. It's just a fun chess match.
- Fred, you said at one point last year that you and Kyle still talk to each other pretty much every day. What are those conversations like these days because last year a lot of it was kind of figuring out what the Raptors look like without him? And what do you guys talk about on a regular basis these days?
FRED VANVLEET: That's really none of your business, but since you asked. I don't know. We talk about all types of things. Life, family, everything. We talk basketball. He watches all of our games, believe it or not. I watch as many games as them as I can stomach. I'm a Kyle fan. I'm not really a Heat fan.
But yeah, I mean, we just-- we talk, we talk about everything. And he's helping me through, obviously, this transition of me running the show now being here. And I always lean on him for advice. And he's always there in my corner to help me and vice versa.
So we just-- I mean, I don't know. If you talk to somebody every day, every other day, like, I don't know. What do you talk to your best friend about? Exactly. There you go. Everything.
- When you start-- in the fourth quarter there when you start just trying to basically build the team to that win, or a win, what's he like verbally? Like, is it [INAUDIBLE] jacked up? Like, is it more than it was earlier?
FRED VANVLEET: I mean, he's always jacked up. I don't know. I haven't really seen him like zoned out of a game. Maybe a few handful of times I've ever seen him in seven years. So he was pretty into it. He was trying to figure it out. But we were able would come out with the win. So I think he accepted that it wasn't going to go his way after he's trying to get a call reviewed or something like that. So once the refs don't let him trick them, we're in good shape.
- Fred, with that, you always expect him to make all these smart plays. What's it do for the team when you see him diving for loose balls?
FRED VANVLEET: Who's that?
FRED VANVLEET: Thad. Oh man, he does everything. He's one of those guys that you just could, if you were trying to teach a young guy how to play, you'd just say, watch that. Watch him every possession. He tries to do everything the right way.
He's attention to detail and the way he executes the game plan. He's physical. He's down there banging and getting rebounds. And he lays his body on the line. Super unselfish.
And just a great guy to have on your team, especially with guys trying to figure it out. So he's been incredible for us over this last week. And somebody that we can continue to lean on. Obviously, the young fella is going to be up and down. But to have a steady hand like that is big for us.
- To go from not getting minutes and DNPs earlier this season to contributing the way he is now, how much of a lesson is that for young guys who are maybe trying to crack the rotation?
FRED VANVLEET: Yeah, just experience, just experience. And knowing that your time is going to come and you can't jump off a bridge. I won't say he wasn't frustrated, but he was still there. He was still coming in, and getting his work in, and being locked into the group, and trying to help the guys.
And I think when you're older, it's easier for you to accept the role that you're in and just understand what that is. And something that he's done for 16 years now. So it's a great lesson for a lot of these young guys that we try to turn into superstars right away, but there's a lot of roles that need to be filled throughout the league. And that is a great example of that.
- Thanks, Fred.
FRED VANVLEET: Thanks, guys.