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NBA Toronto Raptors Fred VanVleet 2016

Raptors Fred VanVleet Gets The Rookie Treatment

Toronto Raptors rookie point guard Fred VanVleet was getting some playing time coming up to the NBA trade deadline and as someone who likes to drive and create contact, he’s been discovering what getting the rookie treatment means in the NBA.

“You shouldn’t even look for no calls,” All-Star DeMar DeRozan responded to Pro Bball Report about being an NBA rookie. “Fred probably couldn’t even name all three refs out there. It just comes with the game. We all went through it. We all got to get through it. It’s just part of a rookie year and, you know, you can’t complain.”

VanVleet is enjoying the classic case of veteran defenders knowing referees are going to give them a lot of latitude when this undrafted rookie drives to the basket. Getting hacked, wacked and knocked on his backside without a friendly whistle anywhere to be found is just something VanVleet has to get used to.

“Without a doubt, that’s about 80 percent of the battle honestly,” VanVleet told Pro Bball Report about not getting calls. “That’s part of being a rookie. That’s part of being a player that (the referees) don’t know. If you look at some of the calls Kyle (Lowry) gets, we laugh about it as group cause those are All-Star calls and veteran calls that some guys get and that’s a part of the process too cause when I’m driving some guys eyes light up versus being afraid to foul. That’s a part of (being a rookie) and part of being a young player and growing.”

I am driving pretty much knowing I am not getting any calls. I got to keep that in the back of my head.”

Don’t think for a minute that’s it’s easy for a rookie to keep driving knowing the defender can lay the wood to him and likely get given ‘the benefit of the doubt’ even when there is no doubt about what just happened.

“It’s hard,” VanVleet said. “It’s hard to keep going. It’s not hard to keep the confidence, but it’s hard to know you could look pretty stupid sometimes flipping some up there, taking a shot off the side of the backboard after getting hit. You just got to have the confidence and be a little crazy about it and decide that this is the type of player I am going to be and nobody is going to stop me until coach Casey comes up to me and says I got to be a little smarter about what I’m doing and I take that into consideration, but until that happens I am going to keep going.”

Being unafraid of physical contact is part of the allure VanVleet brings to the table. There are definitely parallels to Lowry in VanVleet’s game. A toughness, a bulldog mentality that suggests VanVleet will find a way to stick in the NBA long term.

One area where the lack of a referee’s whistle can’t hold him back is on the perimeter and although the sample size is small, VanVleet’s three-point shooting at 38.9 percent has been encouraging.

“I don’t feel that when I play I am limited in any shape or form,” VanVleet said. “Other than in Brooklyn, I’ve thought I’ve shot it well and had good looks. I feel that I can score when I’m out there. It’s a matter of growing and being more efficient and each time I play, trying to get better and over time develop as a player.”

“In terms of shooting from the perimeter, I don’t think I have any issues. It’s just that when I get into the lane, obviously with bigger guys around, trying to find a way to be more efficient.”

With Delon Wright back from injury, playing time for VanVleet will get even harder to find and it’s possible one of them gets traded, possibly this week, likely before next season, so what VanVleet is able to do with whatever opportunities come his way matters. Everything he has done, and will do, will be under the microscope.

“It’s just better players, bigger players, limited time,” VanVleet said. “When I do play, it’s under a microscope. It’s just a learning process that most young players go through and it’s part of my development as a player. I’ll continue to grow and get better.”

Watching VanVleet play, there is no question he’s been getting the rookie treatment from the referees and into the stretch drive prior to the playoffs, he can expect the rookie treatment from the coaching staff as well. Minutes will be hard to come by, but the reasons why the Raptors signed him in the summer have become obvious. There is a lot of Lowry’s bulldog mentality and confidence in his game.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 
 
 

NBA Toronto Raptors Fred VanVleet

Are The Raptors Showcasing Fred VanVleet?

For the second game in a row, undrafted rookie Fred VanVleet was given the Toronto Raptors usual backup point guard Cory Joseph’s minutes in what is hard not to describe as an obvious showcasing of a talent someone might covet as we approach the NBA Trade deadline.

“Cory (Joseph) is still a big part of what we are going to do,” head coach Dwane Casey confirmed after the win in Brooklyn on Super Bowl Sunday.

“(VanVleet) has always played well in practice. He has done well with our D-League team the 905. He is a very talented point guard, so we wanted to make sure we gave him a look.”

Casey has played VanVleet for 20+ minutes four times this season, on the road in Orlando twice, on the road in Brooklyn twice and he has looked pretty good in those games averaging 9.8 points, 3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.5 steals while shooting 39.4 percent from the field, 36.3 percent from three and going 9-9 from the free throw line in his last two games.

“I thought he played well,” Casey said. “I liked the way he quarterbacked. He had 4 assists, knocked down his free throws and I thought he did a good job defensively.”

With Toronto losing eight of their past ten games coming into Sunday and several players, including Joseph, looking a little worse for wear at this point in the season, it’s hard to blame Casey for giving the rookie a chance, but with the NBA trade deadline rapidly approaching, it’s equally hard to not be suspicious of the Raptors real motives here.

President Masai Ujiri put four point guards on his roster to start the 2016-17 season and now that last year’s rookie Delon Wright has three D-League games under his belt with the 905, the obvious question becomes, how does he justify keeping all four? Especially when the Raptors are so obviously thin and vulnerable at the big man spots in the rotation.

Wright has averaged 11.3 points, 1.7 rebounds, 4 assists, a steal and 1.7 blocks in 26.4 minutes with the 905, so his rehab assignment is going to start looking redundant real soon. If Wright is ready to come back up to the big club, Casey knows what he’s getting as Wright was starting to look NBA-ready at the end of last season.

What Ujiri is going to do about his point guard situation is unknown, but the best reason for playing VanVleet recently was to give him the information needed to make a decision. It’s hard to see all three of VanVleet, Wright and Joseph still on this roster after the trade deadline.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 Featured image courtesy of Larry Millson

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Fred VanVleet NBA D-League

Fred VanVleet Reluctantly Admits The Raptors 905 Is Helping Him

Toronto Raptors rookie point guard Fred VanVleet has a lot of confidence and pride, two things he’ll need to survive in the NBA and he’s been taking his “demotions” to the Raptors NBA D-League affiliate seriously and putting in the work. Although, there is more than just a tinge of I don’t really need to be there, when forced to talk about it, VanVleet will admit the Raptors 905 is helping him – maybe.

“I guess that’s a two-part answer for you,” VanVleet responded to Pro Bball Report about playing with the 905. “Number one, I’ve done it and I’ve been doing it and I was ready (to play in the NBA), so I guess you could say it helped me and number two, I don’t know what the alternative is, so who’s to say if I didn’t play (with the 905), I wouldn’t have been ready?

“Whatever the case may be, I was ready when in that moment and I’ve been here with the D-League team, so I guess you could say that was the reason why I’ve been ready, but I just think you’ve got to mentally prepare and physically prepare every day. Work as hard as you can and that’s something I put a lot of pride into, so I think it’s a combination of all those things.”

VanVleet got his chance to play backup point guard minutes with the big club when Cory Joseph missed a game with “flu-like” symptoms and he was ready. The rookie didn’t blow anyone away, but he didn’t look terribly out of place either. It was a solid outing playing meaningful minutes.

At the very least, even VanVleet had to admit the 905 helped get him into “game-shape.”

“Obviously playing and getting game reps helps,” VanVleet admitted. “There is no way to simulate a game other than by playing a game. You can work out all you want to, but until you go out there and go up and down and get into a stance and go for loose balls and make a couple of trips up and down, that’s how you get in game-shape.

“I feel like I’m in pretty good shape. It would be better if I was playing every day, but I don’t feel sluggish or slow out there at all.”

Maybe it’s the 249 minutes he has played in Mississauga with the Raptors 905 over the past month that should be getting credit for that lack of sluggishness? And maybe it’s the practice in eight live D-League  games that made sure VanVleet didn’t look like he was covered in rust when Raptors head coach Dwane Casey threw him out there for 23 minutes in Orlando?

Casey has little doubt about where the credit for VanVleet’s readiness to play belongs.

“It’s just a tribute to our program, top to bottom,” Casey said after the win in Orlando. “The 905, the experience (VanVleet) has down there. He is going to go down there and practice tomorrow.

“It shows how tight our program is. It says a lot about our program, having our guys ready. (If VanVleet) had just been just sitting on the bench down there and not having game experience and game reps as he’s had, he wouldn’t have been ready.

“This is a great testament to our program. The investment we made in the 905 and Fred being ready and stepping up. Fred did a good job.”

Mississauga Raptors 905 head coach Jerry Stackhouse knows what he’s been able to do to help the rookie as well.

“I think every coach knows that with that team (the Toronto Raptors) they aren’t going to get a ton of practice to get up and down,”  Stackhouse said. “Fred doesn’t get a lot of up and down. A lot of his stuff comes from drill work and having to get his conditioning himself, so being able to come down here and actually being able to get some game reps, it helps him out a ton.

“It’s a little different feel for us when we have Bruno (Caboclo) and Fred, but that’s who we are.”

The 905 was acquired to get players ready for the Raptors in Toronto. Fred VanVleet, whether he realizes it or not, has just joined a rapidly growing list of guys on the big club that have benefited from this investment.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

 

Mississauga Raptors 905 at the ACC

Red Hot Raptors 905 Invade Downtown Toronto

By Frank McLean

Usually when you see a convoy of yellow school busses making their way into downtown Toronto there is some kind of protest going on at Queen’s Park or City Hall or Blue Jays fans storming the Rogers Center wanting them to re-sign Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista.

Instead on Tuesday morning it was an invasion of school children, some 15,011 of them, at the Air Canada Centre which became the largest crowd to watch an NBDL game as the Raptors 905 hosted the Grand Rapids Drive in an early 11am tip off .

Mississauga Raptors 905 fans

The Pistons farm team made the 905ers looked like they were sleepwalking in this one as they were thumped 114-87 ending a franchise-high seven game winning streak.

Even the high energy of an arena full of kids screaming, as most for sure were strung out on sugary drinks and pizza, could not help the home side with some extra energy of their own.

Coming into the game the 905ers had a 10-2 record with a NBDL leading .833 winning percentage, but before the game head coach Jerry Stackhouse was prophetic in his comments before the game that “yes we are winning games, but we have a lot of work to do.”

“Today was just one of those games,” Stackhouse said after the game.

“We were ok in the beginning of the game in the first quarter then they took off and made threes. I think they set a new NBA(DL) record for threes in a game today.”

Stackhouse was right about that one.

This past Friday night the Houston Rockets in their win over the New Orleans Pelicans set an NBA record for three-point shots made and attempted as they went 24-for-61 behind the arc.

Grand Rapids tied that NBA record by making 24 trey’s but they did it on far fewer attempts, 48.

The leading scorer for the 905ers was Fred VanVleet who gets action with the 905 when the Raptors aren’t playing.

However, Tuesday was a little bit of a different animal for the Raptors rookie as six hours after the 905 game ended VanVleet will be in a Raptors uniform on the bench supporting the big club for their game with the Brooklyn Nets.

“I’m ready to play anytime I’m called upon,” VanVleet said about the possibility of playing a doubleheader on the same day.

“I’m always mentally prepared and physically prepared to play. It’s something that I put a lot of pride in.”

But the story of the day was the kids.

The 905 already had a school day game this year in their home arena in Mississauga where they filled the Hershey Centre with close to five thousand fans.

Bringing a home game downtown for the second year in a row is a no brainer as they expose their brand of NBDL ball to a captive audience of school kids just happy as heck not to be in class doing math or english just three days before they take off for their Christmas break.

These late morning games are done in minor pro hockey and baseball and have been a great success at selling their product and making fans out of the game with the kids.

I just wonder. Why didn’t they have these games for school kids when I was in school 40 years ago?

 

 

DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

 

 

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Fred VanVleet NBA D-League

Can Raptors Fred VanVleet Find His Groove With The 905?

The Toronto Raptors liked 22-year-old undrafted Wichita State senior point guard Fred VanVleet so much in Summer League that they gave him a training camp invite and made it obvious from Day One he was a likely choice to make the team. However, as the fourth point guard on the organization’s NBA roster, he was going to have to find his groove playing with the Development League Mississauga Raptors 905.

The primary purpose of the 905 is to develop players Raptors president Masai Ujiri believes have the potential to help his team win in the future and it proved its worth last season with Delon Wright, Norman Powell, Bruno Caboclo and Lucas Nogueira last season. This year VanVleet, Caboclo and Jakob Poeltl have made the trip to Mississauga in order to get playing time that’s simply not available to them in Toronto at the moment.

VanVleet debuted with 20 points on 53.8 percent shooting to go with 6 rebounds and 7 assists, but since then he’s had to work hard to make an impact. However, 905 head coach Jerry Stackhouse is going to let him work thru every manner of mistake and keep him on the court quite simply because that’s why the team exists.

“Fred’s smart, he knows that if his shot is not going down he’s going to find other ways to help the team, to help his teammates get easy opportunities,” Stackhouse said. “They are going to guard him closely.”

“The thing about my game is a lot of it’s predicated on getting to the line and getting some calls and the thing about getting calls is sometimes you don’t,” VanVleet said. “It can look pretty ugly there at times when I’m going in there failing at the rim, but I’ve just got to keep aggressive.”

Now four games in, VanVleet is averaging 17.3 points on 41 percent shooting, 2.8 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.8 steals and his 905 team is 3-1. He has been getting to the line 4.8 times per game.

For comparison, last year’s Raptors rookie Delon Wright in 15 905 games averaged 17.7 points on 53.6 percent shooting, 5 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 1.6 steals, but Wright started out red hot in November shooting 73.9 percent from the field in what should be considered the easiest part of the D-League schedule.

“My ultimate goal is to lead the team first and get wins and run the show,” VanVleet explained. “Individual stats and all that comes second. Obviously I know I can play a lot better and keeping working and getting better and trying to deliver. A couple of extra assists might make the stats look pretty.”

It was a long time between preseason games and meaningful minutes for VanVleet with the Raptors in Toronto and he needs the playing time available to him with the 905 if he is going to improve.

“It’s good,” VanVleet said about the 905. “I’ve been fairly rusty and just trying to get back into rhythm. It’s just different playing with a different team and some of the schemes we are doing are different. Different cultures, different teammates, different opposition, so I’m just trying to get acclimated.”

VanVleet has looked very good at times, controlling the pace and the offense and playing like a young NBA player among prospects. He’s also looked, as he noted “ugly” at times as well, turning the ball over 2.8 times per game and struggling to finish or get calls at the rim. His long jumpers aren’t falling with any consistency yet either.

However, the purpose of the 905 is to allow players like VanVleet to get comfortable playing professionally and get a chance to play thru mistakes and find their groove. The Raptors believe VanVleet has the potential to become an NBA rotation player and it’s Stackhouse’s job to get him ready so he can prove it when his chance comes.

 

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 



 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Fred VanVleet 2016

Why All The Fuss Over Raptors Camp Invite Fred VanVleet?

The Toronto Raptors have an entire five man unit of training camp invites trying out for one possible roster spot that president Masai Ujiri could opt to leave open and a couple of those players have already played at a very high level in the NBA Development League, so why all the fuss over an undrafted 5’11 22-year-old college senior who was cut from a very weak Team USA Pan Am roster a couple of summers ago? Why does head coach Dwane Casey seem so enamored by Fred VanVleet?

Toronto already has a third string point guard in Delon Wright who they drafted 20th overall a year ago and while the 24-year-old is currently rehabbing a shoulder injury, he’s expected back in December and the Raptors surely don’t need two point guards on the 15-man roster who’ll spend more time in Mississauga with the 905 than at the Air Canada Centre.

Wright spent most of last season in the D-League as he was overshadowed by second round pick and fellow rookie guard Norman Powell, but the Raptors drafted him because they believed Wright was more NBA ready than a younger prospect and by the end of the season the signs were there that they were right.

In four games in April with the big club, Wright averaged 14.3 points on 53.8 percent shooting from the field, 3.8 rebounds and 4.3 assists as Casey gave some of his regulars a bit of a break before the postseason. It isn’t a big sample size, but Wright particularly impressed in a win over the Pacers where he scored 19 points. There are signs this kid could be as good as advertised by the Raptors when they drafted him.

Despite going undrafted VanVleet did have a solid four year career with Wichita State, however, progress in his development is hard to discern after his freshman season. As a senior he averaged 12.2 points, 3.2 rebounds, 5.5 rebounds and 1.8 steals and those stats aren’t any better than the previous two years. His shooting percentages actually dropped quite noticeably.

However, Casey saw something he liked and VanVleet got a quick invite to Summer League where he averaged 6.2 points, 3 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.2 steals in just 16 minutes and managed to hold his coach’s attention enough for a training camp invite. In his first three NBA preseason games, VanVleet has averaged 5.3 points and 2.3 assists in 15.7 minutes and still gets praise from Casey. It’s a good thing for VanVleet that Casey values things besides stats.

“I love Fred,” Casey said after practice recently. “He doesn’t change expression. He is under control. He is never off balance and that’s one thing you really like about him.

“He does some subtle things that you don’t recognize. On crack downs, he was one of the few guys that really sandwiched (Clippers center) DeAndre Jordan. He got physical with him. Those are things a point guard has to do and he does all the little things that you want out of your point guard.”

No coach Casey, VanVleet is doing all the little thing YOU want out of all your players. Powell got minutes early last season ahead of Wright because he played tough physical defense and Powell took the veteran James Johnson’s spot in the rotation for the same reason plus some unexpected solid three-point shooting. The formula for getting love from Casey isn’t all that complicated. Hit someone on defense every time down the floor, physically impose yourself offensively, and don’t foul (unnecessarily) and you’re a keeper in Casey’s books.

VanVleet says, “Hopefully (the Pan Am team) is the last time I get cut.” However, in the game against the Clippers, Chris Paul let him know just how far he still has to go to make it in the NBA, and no Paul wasn’t really working all that hard to abuse the potential NBA rookie.

“You got to take those (situations) as a young player in the league and just learn from it,” VanVleet said about playing against Paul. “I didn’t play very well to start the game. That was a new experience for me trying to find a rhythm with the starters. Those guys play at a different pace.”

“I put (VanVleet) out there to get him christened against Chris Paul,” Casey said. “That was a great experience for him to go against a veteran, a great player like Chris Paul just to see all the things, the situations a guard like that puts you in.”

It’s pretty obvious Casey likes what VanVleet brings even if it might be a tough sale arguing to keep both Wright and VanVleet on the roster this season. There is no playing time for a developing third string guard who really needs more seasoning in the D-League on the Raptors this season.

What Ujiri really needs is for the NBA and the NBPA to hurry up and agree on the terms to extend the CBA with the rumored expanded rosters and two-way contracts. Unfortunately, union negotiations rarely follow a predictable timetable and the two-sides have until December to cut a new deal.

With Casey’s comments in hand, it’s easy to see what all the fuss over VanVleet is about. The point guard plays the physical style Casey loves. It just isn’t all that easy to see where or how he fits on a roster already loaded with guards.

“I think he’s catching the league’s eye,” Casey said. “He’s an NBA player. I don’t think there’s a question. He just needs some seasoning.”

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.