The Toronto Raptors have 8 players whose contracts are easily shed or will be free agents next season and Greivis Vasquez is one of the 3 guys that could be a restricted free agent in July. However, in spite of the potential for individual players to go after their next contract, nothing of the kind has been happening in Toronto.
“We are all playing a particular role,” Vasquez said. “Whether we like it or not, we have to apply our role on the court and I have a role right now to organize the team and run the second unit. When I am hot, I may close the game with Kyle (Lowry). Right now, I do not want to go outside of my role because it will not look good on me and I don’t want to because we are winning the right way.”
It seems every player on the Raptors is looking at things the same way. They are staying within their roles because it would be obvious if they weren’t and the team is steadily getting better and winning games.
“We are slowly becoming a great team because we know our roles and in this league, it is hard to tell roles to players as sometimes they don’t accept that,” Vasquez said. “That is one great thing the coaching staff has done is giving everyone a role and whether you like it or not that is your job and if you want to win – because wins reward you at the end of the night – you got to do it. We all got a job to do.”
This season has been particularly hard on Vasquez. The young point guard led the entire NBA in total assists last year, but ankle surgery in the summer set him back significantly and it has only been in recent games that he has felt healthy again. Vasquez gives a lot of credit to the Raptors training staff for getting him right.
“I had a tough surgery on my right ankle and now when I feel healthy, I still haven’t gained my whole rhythm back and it gets me at times,” Vasquez said. “It is really hard. It is one of the hardest things that happened to me. I always made progress. I made progress in my rookie year and then last year I had a breakout year and this surgery kind of set me back. I couldn’t workout the whole summer. I couldn’t play for my National team. I didn’t have training camp. When I came here, I was still not into a good rhythm. Finally when I got here, the training staff did a good job and got my body better, my ankle feels so much better now. I feel like I can go now, but I am still missing shots that I don’t normally miss. It is very hard for me this year, but it is a great experience.”
Feeling better has raised Vasquez’s expectations for the rest of the season. If he can find his rhythm, he knows just how much more he can do. After all, he’s done it before. Vasquez just wants his chance to show it, but he is more than willing to fill his current role on the Raptors in the meantime.
“I just want my ankles to be healthy, to be 100 percent and do my best and the second half of the season is going to be better,” Vasquez said. “I already feel so much better the last few games, I just have to be more consistent, hitting my shots, pass when I need to pass and the last few nights I’ve felt very comfortable with myself out there on the court.
“The most important thing is helping the team in whatever I can. (It’s the coach’s) job to play the guys who are doing their job. Sometimes I’m hot and I am going to play and sometimes I’m not and he will sit me on the bench. It is not personal, I don’t take anything personal, I think it’s about winning and I am with that. That is why I love this team.”
Vasquez has bought into the concept that being a team player on a successful franchise will pay dividends for himself at the end of the season and past experience should prove him right. The more successful the Raptors are, the more in demand their players will be in free agency.
“If you are in the rotation on a winning team, winning rewards players,” Vasquez said. “If we do the right thing and we help this team win then eventually I think my time will come the way I really want my time to be, but right now, it’s about the team, it’s not about me.
“Personally, I want to stay. I think it will be an interesting summer for a lot of guys. I am willing to stay if they want me here, but it’s a business at the end of the night – most of us are feeling pretty comfortable to stay and be a part of this team.”
It‘s a bit unusual to see such a professional and business-like approach to the game in Toronto and it’s not just Vasquez who can see the benefit of putting his team ahead of himself, it seems every player on the Raptors has figured that out this season. With this kind of attitude, the likelihood of Toronto continuing to win is that much higher and so is the likelihood their free agents will want to stick around. In pro sports, winning cures almost everything.
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Raptors Tyler Hansbrough Loves Toronto
“Actually, I love Toronto,” Hansbrough enthusiastically responded. “I was telling one of my friends, it’s probably one of the best cities I have ever lived in. As far as the fans go, I like to see them all come out to the games, it’s an atmosphere in here every night, everybody really gets into it.”