Raptors guard Fred VanVleet discusses the loss to the Bucks, team morale and the team's struggles scoring the ball.
- Fred, with the way it started and the way that it ended, where does that rank in terms of some of the strangest games you've been a part of?
FRED VANVLEET: It's at the top, for sure. That was an experience. But again, you know, a loss is a loss. Wish we could have came out with a W there that would have made up for a lot of how ugly it was. But you know, you can take an ugly win, I'm not so sure there's a such thing as a ugly loss.
- You guys, how have you not-- your collective team, not lost your minds this year? Know what I mean? Like--
FRED VANVLEET: Yeah.
- --there's no finger pointing, there's no nothing?
FRED VANVLEET: No, that's fair. I think just with myself and Pascal, having been through a lot in a short amount of time in seven years, I think just understanding the situation that we're all in. And it's one of those things where it's like, not really one person's fault.
You know what I mean? It's just some guys, sometimes you're a casualty of war. And just, you know, it's very situational. And you know, we certainly all got to play better as a unit, as a team. And we try to find ways to do that.
But for the most part, there's not much finger pointing or blaming each other. Because we're all out there together in the fight together. And just keep trying to find ways to do it and get it done. But yeah, that's probably the most I can say on that part.
- Fred, what's it like when you go 0 of 15 as a team, and 2 of 29 for the first 15 minutes or something like that. Like, what are people saying? What are you-- how are you trying to not lose your mind, I guess?
FRED VANVLEET: Yes, it's a lot of basketball left. It's a long game. It's never quit.
You just got to keep pushing and you know, we're in the moment. Just like everybody else, it feels like what it looks like. You know, I'm sure watching it, it's worse on-- playing it than watching it.
So we're out there, we're in the mix. And it's just one of those things, the energy and the mojo, and just the air in the building was just weird, you know? It was just a weird game.
Especially to start off like that, and they weren't much better, you know what I mean? And what was it, 12-13 at the end of one? So we just kept fighting.
You know, it was 39-38 at half. So we were in a dogfight. And I was proud of the way we competed to the end. We got to be able to hang our hats on that, and never giving up, and just digging in and playing together.
- In this game specifically, but also a bit this season in general, I mean, you know you're shooting numbers this year. How do you walk the line between I've got to take the shots that work within our offense, and I need to get us a quote, unquote, "good look" for-- that involves a bunch of ball movement, et cetera, et cetera?
FRED VANVLEET: Yeah, I just play to win, bro, to be honest with you. And you know, I don't really care about the numbers, as you can tell. I just play to win. I compete.
And wherever that ends me up, it'll end me up. And at the end of the year, my numbers will look similar to the whatever the rest of my career has looked like so far. So I think I'm at 37 total, 32 from 3.
So I shot 37% from 3 last year, and 40 from the field last year, in an all-star year. So my numbers'll balance out at the end of the year. I just got to keep playing with confidence.
Again, I think trying to squeeze as much life out of this team as possible. And the thought was to come back and try to play more winning championship caliber basketball. And you try to do that.
And I haven't been able to find my touch in kind of a secondary third row as much. And when I'm aggressive you know I play well. So just got to keep trying to find ways to compete and bring value to the team.
And at the end of the day, it's about wins and losses. And that's what keeps me up at night, is the losses. It's not necessarily my individual play. As I said, it's very, very, very situational for all of us.
- What do you make of--
- When you think about-- sorry.
- Sorry, go ahead.
- As a leader, your goal is to kind of get guys rallied and think about others. But for yourself, after that shot, kind of looked as though you were thinking about that a bit on the court. How do you pull yourself out of those moments to finish the games?
FRED VANVLEET: I was tired as shit. I was just tired. That's what that was.
I needed that one to go down, you know what I mean? Those shots give you more energy and more life, and you know, just trying to pull out a win and squeeze out of there with another possession or two. And came off of Grayson Allen in the corner, and you know, there's 1,000 plays that you want back.
But yeah, I'm never going to stop, man. I compete to the end. I leave it all out there on the floor. And that's something that I've hung my hat on in this league, and something that I'll continue to do. And like it or love it, you know what I'm saying, I play my heart out. And it's not going to stop anytime soon.
- When teams are playing that kind of coverage against Scottie, sticking the center on him, playing the kind of one man zone to blockade the rim, do you feel like there's more that he can do, or maybe you guys can do as a collective to get that big man thing a little bit and open things up?
FRED VANVLEET: No, we just got to take those shots and get more used to that type of offense. We haven't really played much pick-and-roll against a drop this year. So it was a little funky there.
And then the rhythm, again, just the air in the building, those shots weren't dropping. But you just got to take those shots in. They're playing the percentages on defense, and we got to play the percentages on offense, and come out and take the 3's and take the pull-ups, and just be aggressive in that.
I think that pick-and-roll will help our offense a lot. And the more aggressive Scottie is on the second side, the second action, as you see late, you know, he turned it on late and scored a bunch. So he keep finding ways to be effective, as a young kid playing the center against guys that are way bigger than him, it's going to be a little bit of a process. And just, he's figuring it out.
- Given how little you've played against that type of defense, is it unrealistic to expect him to sort of figure it out from the jump, on what to do on the second side?
FRED VANVLEET: No, because he's a talented player. He knows what to do. It's just, he's one of those guys where, it's one of those things where you don't want to feel like you're shooting because that's the shot they're giving you.
So it's almost like, I'm not going to shoot it because you're making me shoot it. You know what I mean? And you try to do something else.
But I think just finding a rhythm, he can find a little short row floater, as you saw late.
Take up the space, get to the rim. It's maybe difficult to do a whole game, but there's things that we can do, and play on the second side.
And even instead of popping just trail behind the play and play the role, even against the deep drop, you still can play the role. So we've got to continue to work on that, and try to find, squeeze some things out of our offense there. But defensively we were locked in tonight and we competed our asses off.
- Fred, Nick has said in previous games that the lack of shot-making has impacted the defense negatively. Why do you think that didn't happen tonight?
FRED VANVLEET: We just fought. We just fought and we guarded them. We guarded them and they didn't shoot much better. You know, they threw a couple 3's in, in very key moments.
Giannis got to the line, what? Just 21 times. But we guarded him, when we were locked into the game plan and just really in-sync on that end of the floor and competed, and kind of made up for some of that.
So you got to be able to give yourself a chance. And our defense gave us a chance to win tonight. But we just didn't make enough shots.