With Toronto missing two starters against arguably the NBA's top squad, Fred VanVleet says the Raptors can take solace in the battle they put up against a talented, scrappy group like the Suns on Tuesday. Follow our Raptors coverage all season long on Yahoo Sports Canada.
- Fred, do you take anything away from-- I know a loss is a loss, but you guys down two starters played the team with the best record in the NBA hard for 46 and 1/2 minutes. But what do you take away from that one?
FRED VANVLEET: You just got to appreciate the fight, be proud of the fight. That was a really intense, tough game. It's probably as good as it gets without a crowd in there. They certainly raised the level. That's the reason why they have the best record in the NBA is because they play that way every night.
And I thought that we answered the call. I thought that it was a good test for us. Obviously, we didn't come out with the victory, but we appreciate the fight. There's a lot of things you could have cleaned up. Didn't shoot the 3 well enough, left 10 free throws on the board, but forced that team into 20 turnovers. You get 22 offensive rebounds. You know, that sounds like a good night. Again, just probably ran out of juice there on some of the shots just not falling there late.
- When you're grabbing offensive rebounds like that, on a third of your misses, does that allow you to change the way you play offense, take crazier shots or something? Because you know you're [INAUDIBLE]?
FRED VANVLEET: I mean, not exactly. I think it just gives you more shots. We had 15 more attempts than them. So in theory, you would hope that would give you more than one more make. You know, they had 35 makes. We had 36.
But again, give them credit. They're one of the best teams in the league for a reason. And they closed us out there at the end. But I thought we had a good fight. That just speaks to the aggressiveness and compete level that we were able to go get 22 of them. And we missed a lot of shots. That helps to get offensive rebounds too.
- You've been a fan of Champagnie since Summer League. How do you keep him on the bench? How do not use him given what he does when he gets in there?
FRED VANVLEET: I don't know. Nick just left, so that's probably a better question. [LAUGHS] But yeah, you got to be-- I'm so proud of Just, man. He's been balling every time he gets in there. He just has a great spirit and energy, has a real talent for rebounding the basketball. He had a big steal on Chris Paul. I don't know if he-- yeah, think he had a tip-in.
So he's one of those guys can plug in and play. I'm sure that he keeps this up-- he'll be earning some more minutes down the line. But you've got to be happy with his compete level.
- A phrase you used in the past for guys like him were shiny, new toy, except he seems to be more than that. Like, he doesn't-- he's not, like, just making a bunch of shots and disappearing. He's making plays.
FRED VANVLEET: Yeah.
- Is that a fair assessment? FRED VANVLEET: Yeah, I think those are the things that make you last in the league because the shots come and go as we know, especially for a young player. But if you can make all those other plays, that just gives you on the floor opportunity. We have a lot of talent. We're a pretty top-heavy team.
So we need some of those other guys that can knock down a corner 3, offensive rebound, guard your guy, do all the right things. And Justin is one of those guys. So we've all been on him. We're all happy by the way he's been playing. He's got to continue to grow and get better.
- At 6' 6", can you put your finger on what it is about him that makes him such a good rebounder? I know Nick has said a bunch of times that he's got a nose for the ball. Is thee anything specific that you see that he does?
FRED VANVLEET: First, he's pretty athletic. You know, he's just got a talent for it. Sometimes it's just about angles and reading where it's coming off at. And he's a tough kid. He's a Brooklyn-raised guy. He's a pretty tough kid. And he's not afraid to jump in the fight and get in there, and he's not afraid of contact. So that's something that we can definitely use on this team going forward.
- Fred, you're saying you're anticipating teams getting you a little bit differently. Looked like they were making an effort to make sure they get some legs on no matter what kind of pick and roll action.
FRED VANVLEET: Yeah, I think I had some looks there. I missed some ones that I usually make. But they did a pretty good job just showing bodies. They were attentive. Sometimes the difference is just not falling asleep. They didn't really fall asleep much. They were pretty locked in. There was always one guy kind of shadowing me, knowing where I was at.
So that's usually what the playoffs look like. There's more little attention to detail. And so it's good for us to see what that's like and kind of adjust and adapt and keep working our halfcourt offense. But obviously, we probably miss Gary and Scottie there a little bit as some of the other-- the ball was finding other guys in certain spots, and we just couldn't convert.
But yeah, I wasn't too mad about the way that we executed. Certainly had some good looks that have been going down for us, and they didn't go tonight. But give Phoenix credit.
- Fred, I'm going to do one question online. Go ahead, Maria.
- Hi, Fred. Nice to see you. Despite a loss, I don't know if you're aware that you were named Player of the Week. Even Coach Nurse mentioned earlier today the great work and the way in which you are impacting this game. So I was wondering, what would you say is the secret behind that success?
FRED VANVLEET: Well, if it's a secret, I'm not supposed to tell. But I would just say, for me, I just try to come into work every day and try to get better and just be good to the game. And the game is usually good to you, and respect the game.
I really love what I do, and I show up every day not always with a smile on my face, but ready to work and try to grow and get better and be open minded to learn from mistakes. And it's something that I've done over the years.
So as far as Player of the Week goes, I just got hot. My teammates found me in good spots. And sometimes it just goes your way. So it was a cool accomplishment, but definitely not something that I think about on a daily basis. But I'll take it and continue to keep working and get better.
And hopefully, down the line we can convert that into more winning streaks and maybe more Players of the Week or Month or whatever the case may be. So I'm just trying to work and get better and just be good to the game.
- Thanks, Fred.
FRED VANVLEET: Thanks, guys.