Difficulty of limiting VanVleet's minutes continues to show for Nurse, Raptors

TORONTO — The difficulty of decreasing Fred VanVleet's minutes continues to be on display as the season wears on.

After tying for the league lead in minutes (37.9) per night last season — alongside Toronto Raptors teammate Pascal Siakam — VanVleet vowed he'd be more conscientious of his minutes and smarter with his body back in training camp.

However, as Toronto head coach Nick Nurse put it in September, it's easier said than done.

Toronto's all-star guard played his second consecutive and ninth 40-plus minute game of the season in Friday night's 112-108 loss to the New York Knicks.

"I think he's tried, he's tried this year a bit," VanVleet said of Nurse. "He's done it a little bit. We've had our fights about it, you know, but I trust coach and I trust what he's doing.

"I think my minutes are down. I don't know if that 47 the other night helped the average. But I think my minutes are down a bit. Maybe one. I will take it one at a time, but coach is trying … again, whatever the team needs, I try to provide that, and (it) just wasn't good enough to get a win tonight."

VanVleet led the Raptors with 28 points Friday, 17 of which came in the second half. He also had eight rebounds and seven assists.

He is currently third in the league in minutes per contest (37.0) behind teammates O.G. Anunoby (37.1) and Siakam (37.2).

“It’s been difficult," Nurse said before Friday night's game. "We certainly would love to cut those down by five or six minutes a night for sure.

"It was looking like we were heading in that direction. We just need someone to fill those minutes where we can feel like the game is still within reach. We’re always thinking about it.”

Toronto has had its share of injuries this season, having to count on a number of different lineups throughout.

VanVleet himself has missed nine games, most recently sitting out the final two contests of 2022 due to back spasms.

But when asked how he'll manage with his competitive style of play and all the contact he takes, VanVleet did his best to settle any concerns.

"I'll be fine, guys," he said. "Trust me. I’ll be fine, I promise. I really appreciate it from the bottom of my heart. But I'll be fine, I promise.

"And if there's anything bothering me, I won't play. Write it down."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 6, 2023.

Abdulhamid Ibrahim, The Canadian Press