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Following a 35-point performance against the Knicks, Fred VanVleet had many good things to say about the Raptors’ core. He’s confident that Toronto will be a tough team to beat once they’re back to full health and continue to build on their chemistry.
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- With basically all the guys.
FRED VAN VLEET: And it felt good. It felt good. You know you just want to have more weapons and just be at an advantage at all times. It'll probably take some time to get the chemistry and the flow. The rhythm was a little off sometimes. But I thought we were pretty locked in for most of the game.
- I think there was one play where you were on the [INAUDIBLE] and you switched with Pascal and then [INAUDIBLE] down and OG took Pascal's guy. He went after the corner. Are those little things that are going to make that defensive line up work? Like a faster--
FRED VAN VLEET: Yeah, I mean for sure. That's where you would hope the strength would be. It takes all five to do it. And sometimes we've had guys in that are not accustomed to doing that at the level we need to do it at. So when you don't have to think as much and you can just kind of play and react and rotate, and know that the guy behind you is going to make the right read and the right play-- and even if it's the wrong read we are all on the same page. That's a good feeling to have. So I thought we were on the string for the majority of the game.
- Granted it's just been one game. But you look at some of the stresses in that game, the second quarter in particular, but just generally where everyone was kind of slotting it, does it give you guys optimists? Or does it kind of confirm what maybe your own belief about the [INAUDIBLE] than maybe the record shows?
FRED VAN VLEET: For sure. I think we felt good about our group all year, to be honest with you. I just like our spirit and our chemistry. And kind of the enthusiasm that we have for the game. And it's going to take time to get it to be where we need it to be. But you would hope that we can keep climbing, and by April and May will be at our best. And that's kind of the goal. So again, to start the year off with everybody back, and hopefully we can run off a couple here playing good basketball. This is kind of where you want to be. And we just got to continue to get better individually, and collectively. And I think that we will be a tough team to beat if we can keep growing towards the end of the year.
- Sorry, go ahead.
- I was gonna say, how much easier is it when Pascal is making plays for you, or somebody in the offense is coming to you versus you having to [INAUDIBLE]?
FRED VAN VLEET: Yeah, for sure. Catching and shooting is a lot easier than trying to make it happen. For sure. I'm not-- I'm very self aware. But, yeah, I think between him-- I said it post-game-- between him, Scottie and OG, they're all three guys who can create mismatches and advantages. The defense is showing those guys a lot of attention. And then you got me and Gary spotting up on the outside. I think that's a good way for us to play it. Pascal has been really aggressive getting to his spots and making the right read. So that's a good way for us to generate offense.
- There was so much talk before the season about the uniqueness of this roster being able to do different things with the rotation and the lineup. And you guys have been doing that. But obviously with more bodies and full roster you can do it more. We saw it today, starting small, going big when Gary picked up the foul trouble. Scottie playing backup point guard. How much are you looking forward to unlocking some of those different options and seeing what works and what doesn't work from that standpoint?
FRED VAN VLEET: I mean-- just all in all, it's just you feel like you got a fair shot at it, right? When everybody's available. You can live with that when you got-- I feel good about our top six, seven, eight. You know what I mean? And the rest of those guys, we got to bring them along and get them up to speed. But even the end of the rotation has been put into the fire this year. So they're better for it. All of those guys are going to have their opportunity. But I think our core is pretty good, and we sprinkle the rest of those guys in and find their rhythm in the rotations as we continue to play more minutes together. You just feel good about having a fair shot at it.
- Have we even seen-- like Nick talked about that. The type for today's starting five, how he wants to end games with you guys. And how he's basing it totally on defense. He wants the best defensive lineup. Have we been seeing anything close to how good defensively that five can be?
FRED VAN VLEET: I think there's been spurts, you know, to certain plays, and things like that. It's hard to maintain. I thought we got a little gas there in the first quarter, we started pretty strong. Got a little gas in the first. And they made some tough twos and open three's. And then I don't know if I've ever seen seven fouls in 90 seconds to start the third. So again, you got to keep adjusting and adapting to the way the game is being called.
But we've had our moments this year. I don't think we've put it together, you know, for a long period of time, like we need to. But we just got to keep building and see where we can be better. And whatever-- we got San Antonio next. You know we've got to try to put together a better performance than we did today.
- After the last game you said your legs felt like jelly or jell-o, or whatever it was. At that time you felt a bit off. How did you feel physically today?
FRED VAN VLEET: I feel a lot better. It's probably the best I've felt in a while. I played a majority of the first half of the season injured and dealing with a bunch of different things. So that break for COVID wasn't the worst thing for me. I got to continue to take care of my body, because when I feel good, I usually play good. And you know that's kind of been the reality for me this season especially. And just got to continue to try to give myself the best chance to be who I need to be for this team.
- Thank you, Fred. We got one question for you online. Go ahead Adam.
- Hey, Fred. I'm just wondering, big picture, with the way that the NBA playoffs have been set up the last couple of years, does anything change with that top six getting into the postseason and the way the play-in tournament is set up? Does that change anything internally? How players or how teams approach just the season as a whole?
FRED VAN VLEET: I don't know. We don't really talk about it as much. I think for me, personally, you're aiming for that top six. You don't want to be messing around with the play in game where anything can happen. But it also gives you a better outlook on it because it's 10 now. So you used to look and see who the top eight was, now you're looking to see who the top 10 is. 10, 11. And especially in the East, it's always like 11 through six is kind of close. So it definitely changes the dynamic of the standings and the race for those spots towards the end of the year. But we don't really put much focus on that as a team. I think it's just kind of some of the reality of the situation. So we should definitely be aiming for that top six. And I think it's doable. But we're going to have to play good basketball for a long stretch of time.
- All right. Thank you.
FRED VAN VLEET: Thanks.