Fred VanVleet has been back to work for just over a week and he can sum up the experience in one word.
“Different,” VanVleet said. “I think that is the word I will keep using. It’s just different from the norm, from what we are used to.”
VanVleet was one of the first Raptors to arrive in Florida for a two week stay in Fort Myers before the Raptors head north to Orlando to enter the NBA campus. If all goes well there, that could amount to another 100 days stay.
For now the Raptors have taken over a hotel they were fortunate enough to find that had been closed and was just re-opening. It means they have the entire compound to themselves which is really the only way anyone would want it in the state of Florida right now.
The Coronavirus remains rampant in the sunny state but it’s also home to Disney where the NBA believes it can do the best job of keeping their players and staffs and employees safest within the campus or bubble inside Walt Disney World.
Obviously there are no guarantees how safe anyone will be and each player had to make his own decision.
For VanVleet it was a matter of deciding to trust both the league and his organization that he would be protected. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t still concerned.
“Pretty concerned,” he said following his daily morning workout. “It sounded good a month or two ago, not so much right before we got ready to leave. I think for the most part I just put the trust in the organization and understand that I don’t think they would put us in extreme risk, trust the NBA. That’s where my trust lies right now. Hopefully they prove me right and not wrong … I’m trying to be optimistic about it. It’s not the most ideal situation but it’s kind of the times we are in. It hasn’t been an ideal for anyone.”
VanVleet fully understands those players that have opted out of the opportunity to resume play this summer. Some have done so for health concerns. Others over the concern that the fight against racial injustice needs their attention now. VanVleet sees that battle as a long term one and one he is fighting even now as he awaits the opening of the NBA campus at Disney in the south of Florida.
“I definitely respect guys that took the stand to sit out for whatever reason,” VanVleet said. “But my choice was to come play. I’m not right and they’re not wrong. It’s just a personal choice for everybody.”
VanVleet is very up front about his reasons for playing. He did not make this decision lightly.
“It sucks,” he said of having to choose between focussing on the racial injustice issue and his career. “It’s terrible timing. But that’s been 2020 for us. We all know the right thing to do is to not play, to take a stand. Morally, yes, that makes sense. But life goes on. We’re all young, black guys. None of us want to give any money back. I don’t think that we should. I think that money can be used in a number of different ways. This is not going to end this summer regardless, or over the next couple of months. This issue, racial injustice, social injustice, police brutality, all these things are not ending anytime soon. Our fight was long term. That was part of my decision. But if the league, or more of my guys would have come together and said we didn’t want to play, I would have sat out as well. I wouldn’t have even fought it. I think most of us decided to play. It’s something we’ll have to live with. I trust that my heart’s in the right place and I’m doing enough to make change.”
His days right now are pretty regimented. Up early for an early morning workout but not before his COVID test and all his vitals are tested. Then the workout and then back to the hotel to eat, take a nap and get treatment. After that the rest of the day is his to do as he pleases. Video games, FaceTime calls with his family or whatever he chooses as long as he stays in the hotel. Freedom is non-existent he half jokes.
Whatever freedom he does have right now will likely be further curtailed when he enters the NBA campus on July 9t but he anticipates that and is fine with it.
“If you want to find a million different little things to be wrong, they will be there for you,” VanVleet said. “And if you want to get through it I think you will be able to get through it. My first thought was ‘What are we going to do for food?’ If they are trying to keep us all enclosed for that long, the food options will become scarce pretty quick or bland after a while of eating the same thing over and over again. But we’ll see. I don’t know. I think there’s a lot of still unanswered questions that a lot of guys have had so we’re just going to have to show up and see.
“My hope is once we start playing we just get back into the flow of what we are used to and you will play and eat and sleep and hang out and then play again and before you know it, it will be over.”
The Raptors head will head into the bubble the No. 2 seed in the East and facing the toughest eight-game seeding schedule of any team in Orlando. VanVleet, nevertheless, likes his team’s chances.
“Everybody I’ve talked to since I’ve been here is just looking forward to getting to Orlando and start practising and gearing up and trying to win another one,” he said. “I think we have a really, really good chance and we’re going to be a tough team to beat four times, for anybody.”
The Raptors re-open the season Aug. 1 against LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers.
MISSING HIS FAMILY
Fred VanVleet has been away from his kids for less than a week and already he misses them.
The plan right now within the VanVleet family is to have the rest of the fam join dad in Orlando for the second round of the playoffs, the first possible time family members can join the NBA players inside the campus at Disney.
But that decision will be based on what VanVleet experiences over that first month and a half before the NBA opens the campus to family members.
“I will re-evaluate once I’ve been in Orlando for a little while. It it’s something that suits us, then we will do it. If not, then we won’t. But I like having my family around for sure,” he said.