VanVleet ready to lead by example this season

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TORONTO – Fred VanVleet arrived early for the first day of his rookie training camp to prove he was up to the job.

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He arrived for exercise at 9 a.m. at 11 a.m., only to find Kyle Lowry pulling up after a weight workout. He was there since 6.

Six years later, and with Lowry gone, VanVleet is ready to lead by example as a veteran in a very young Raptors team that hosts Washington in its season-opener on Wednesday. It is important, the 27-year-old point guard said, for young players to learn to fit into the team culture quickly.

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“You have to learn how to be a pro,” VanVleet said after practice at the OVO Athletic Center on Tuesday. “We have a lot of 20, 21-year-olds who have no idea. I was mature enough at age 20, but I don’t know if I was ready for it.

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“So, learning what it takes to be a pro, like passing up a drink, getting sleepy, eating something you (don’t want to) . . . you eat right, you sleep, you Extra hours left for treatment, you get extra hours early to work. There’s a lot of it, there’s not room for a lot of fights, and I think younger players have to learn it really fast for. “

VanVleet, who scored a career-high 19.6 in one night last season, said he can already see examples rubbing off on young players, including 20-year-old rookie Scotty Barnes.

“If (Lori) had been here three hours before practice I would have beaten her here, and that would have allowed me to develop my own routine,” VanValet said. “Scotty (Barnes, a rookie) watching me and Pascal (Siakam) at the gym three or four hours before training camp, now he’s trying to race to beat us here everyday, that’s all it takes. Is.”

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The Raptors play their first regular-season game in 600 days at the Scotiabank Arena, finally returning after a season of calling Tampa, Fla., home. T-shirts, signs and social media hashtags have heralded their comeback with two simple words: “We’re back.”

Goran Dragic will make his domestic debut as a Raptors, and the 13-year veteran, who secured a deal that sent Lowry to Miami, said every opening night is special. Even more so because Toronto hasn’t hosted the season opener in two years.

“At the beginning of the game of course, a little nervous, some butterflies, but as soon as the referee throws the ball up, you’re ready to go. But it’s always exciting. It doesn’t matter how many you are in the league.” There are years. It’s always fun,” he said. “Maybe the arena is going to sell out and you guys didn’t play here last year so it’s going to be a good start. Hopefully we get the W.”

Toronto has been called this season’s mystery team because of so many fresh young faces. When asked how good he believed they could be, Dragic said he was pleasantly surprised during the pre-season.

“We looked really tall,” he said, spreading his arms wide as he specifically mentioned six-foot-nine point guard Dalano Banton.

“It’s a young team with a lot of versatility so I think it will cause a lot of trouble for the opponents,” he said. “We will be hard to beat, especially at home.”

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VanVleet said the renovated Raptors are well prepared for the season, having worked more in training camp, he said, than in any other season he played.

A six foot one guard was asked how it should be on the floor with four six foot eight players. Does he feel like he has to play big, especially on defense? He explained that he led the league in deflection last season. He said he wasn’t going to list all the stats, then laughed that he even had 0.7 blocks in a game.

“I already play big so it’s not really an issue for me,” he said. “I’m telling you, I don’t care (height difference). I’m so crazy in my mind, everybody’s the same height. It hurts me sometimes but for the most part I don’t notice it does it

“The only time I notice it – it’s a true story – is when I go home to Rockford (Ill) for the summer and I’m back in the team and it’s always Pascal, every time I see him.” So I say ‘God, he’s tall, he’s really tall, man.’ But when I’m here, I don’t care because I’m just fighting.

The Raptors were expecting a sell-off for Wednesday’s opener. They are in Boston for their first road game on Friday.

Notes: The Raptors exercised a third-year team option on the contracts of forward Precious Achiuwa and guard Malachi Flynn. Both the players have now been signed for the 2022-23 season. Achiuwa, a six-foot-eight hit from the heat with Dragik, averaged 5.0 points and 3.4 rebounds last season. The six-footer Flynn was the Raptors’ 29th pick in the 2020 draft and averaged 7.5 points, 2.9 assists and 2.5 rebounds in his rookie season.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published on October 29, 2021.

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