In addition to returning to the job he loves, there is another reason why Fred VanVleet is eager to resume the NBA season: he wants a chance to defend the NBA title from the Toronto Raptors.
Sitting second in the Eastern Conference with a 48-18 record, excitement was mounting for the Raptors as they neared the playoffs before the NBA abruptly ended its 2019-20 season on March 12 because of the new coronavirus.
“This is part of the reason everyone wants to come back, at least from our camp,” VanVleet told Rachel Nichols on ESPN, The Jump on Wednesday.
“We knew we had a good chance, as good as anyone, obviously what we did last year, and then come back after losing Kawhi and Danny to have the team we had this year. We were just trying to get through the regular season to see where we are in the playoffs. “
With reports surfacing daily about what a return to the game might look like for the NBA, it looks promising that there could be some sort of basketball played this summer.
“I think we were really excited to get into [the] after the season and now I think we are starting to be happy to say, “Hey, we are still in the same band, our chances are good, everyone is well rested,” said VanVleet. “So whatever basketball we come back to, I think we will have a good chance. “
But everything is aligned to bring basketball back is easier said than done. The NBA is said to be working on developing its own medical / safety protocols in phases, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, with early projection of a resumption of play in late July or early August. But many details remain unclear at this stage.
Despite the challenges, VanVleet said that, for the most part, everyone wants to start playing again.
“I think a lot of the guys want to come back,” he said. “I think there are serious concerns, just about health and logistics and what it will all look like, and the guys away from their families. I think these are all real things, but at the end of the day, that is what we do and who we are. “
Although the league faces a number of challenges, VanVleet said he was confident there would be an option to return to play at the end of this season. The Raptors leader said he hopes the NBA leadership will make the best decisions for the league and that the players will accept the decision.
While protecting players from COVID-19 remains the top priority, players who are injured after being away from home for months are also a real possibility. As an upcoming free agent, VanVleet said he was well aware of this risk.
“We saw what happened with Kevin and Klay in the final last year,” VanVleet told Nichols. “These guys have missed the whole year this year. So someone who comes back for this and then we are missing for next year would be terrible. “
“You don’t want to think about things like that, but you also need to be aware of all the risks you take when you go out. “
That said, VanVleet said he hadn’t thought too much about his own free agency – at this point, he’s just ready to be on the pitch with his team.
“I’m just looking forward to going back there and I hope the league will do what it takes to make sure guys like me are taken care of. “