Fred VanVleet, one of the most coveted players in free agency this year, is remaining a Toronto Raptor.
A source close to the team confirmed a report on Saturday that the Raptors had re-signed the 26-year-old to a four-year, $ 85-million US deal, keeping one of the best backcourts in the league intact.
“Mr. Bet On Yourself” went undrafted in 2016 and so signed with Toronto for summer league. He went from being a standout with Toronto’s G League affiliate Raptors 905 to being a key cog in Toronto’s thrilling 2019 championship run.
The image of VanVleet lying on the floor in Toronto’s Game 4 win of the Finals at Golden State, his front tooth chipped and blood running down his cheek, will be one of the most memorable of the thrilling run.
Last season, he started alongside Kyle Lowry and averaged 17.6 points and 6.6 assists while shooting 39 per cent from three on nearly seven attempts a game.
Top off-season task complete
He’s a workhorse on defence, leading the NBA in deflections. He was fourth in steals.
VanVleet had Raptors fans sweating when he recently said on the J.J. Redick podcast: “I’ve never said it publicly, but I’m not shy about that, I’m trying to get paid man. I’ve won a championship, now it’s time to cash out. I just want to feel my value reciprocated on the other side.”
The Raptors had repeatedly said securing VanVleet was their biggest off-season task, and they’d been quietly confident they’d be successful.
Toronto will start its season, which tips off on Dec. 22, south of the border, playing games in Tampa, Fla. due to COVID-19 border restrictions.
Training camps open Dec. 1.
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In other free-agent moves Saturday:
The Charlotte Hornets have wanted Gordon Hayward for years. On Saturday, they finally landed him, according to Priority Sports, the agency that represents the veteran forward. Hayward, 30, will reportedly sign a four-year contract worth $ 120 million.
The Atlanta Hawks added guard Kris Dunn on a two-year contract worth $ 10 million, a person with knowledge of the move told The Associated Press. That move came after Atlanta also landed Danilo Gallinari on Friday to a three-year contract. Later Saturday, guard Rajon Rondo, who helped the Los Angeles Lakers win the title this year, also signed with the Hawks, reportedly agreeing to a two-year deal.
Miami agreed to a two-year deal starting at $ 5.9 million with top defensive guard Avery Bradley, who spent last season with the Los Angeles Lakers, agent Charles Briscoe said. Bradley has averaged 11.8 points in his career. The second year of that deal is at the Heat option.
Forward Jae Crowder, a big part of Miami’s run last season to the NBA Finals, agreed on a three-year contract that will be worth nearly $ 30 million to join the Phoenix Suns, according to a person familiar with those negotiations. Crowder became a starter last season for the Heat and averaged 12.0 points in Miami’s playoff run.
Dwight Howard became the first announced free-agent signing of this off-season, completing his one-year, $ 2.6 million deal. He signed Saturday; players on certain kinds of contracts, like the veteran minimum one he agreed to Friday night, did not have to wait for the traditional signing period to begin Sunday.
Malachi Flynn said there’s no better NBA veterans to learn from than Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet.
The Toronto Raptors selected Flynn with the 29th pick in Wednesday night’s NBA draft, adding another small point guard with a strong defensive presence to their backcourt.
“I think it’s going to be great for me honestly, as a young guy coming in the league, with two guys who have won a championship, who have put up great numbers, there’s not much bad you can say about those two guys,” Flynn said. “I think it will be great for me to be around them every day and continue to learn.”
The six-foot-one, 185-pound guard led San Diego State to a 30-2 record and a No. 6 national ranking. He was also the Mountain West conference player and defensive player of the year.
WATCH | Raptors take Malachi Flynn at 29:
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Flynn said he’s watched the Raptors and “how well they play,” and has paid particular attention to VanVleet and Lowry.
“They’re super savvy,” he said. “Kyle Lowry’s great at getting you in foul trouble, just keeping you on your toes, he knows what plays to make, he’s going to come up in big moments, he does all the little things.”
He’s inspired by VanVleet, who went undrafted but has worked himself into being one of this year’s most coveted free agents.
“He blew up and just continued to get better. He’s six foot, six-one, right around there, guys like that get (overlooked) so seeing him being able to win a championship and put up great numbers in the finals, it’s definitely inspirational for a guy like me,” Flynn said.
The Raptors spoke to Flynn early in the pandemic, and then went to see him two weeks ago in Las Vegas, a trip that sealed the deal.
“He’s a guy we really liked, and can come in and . . . develop under the leadership of Kyle and Fred,” Raptors GM Bobby Webster said. “Those are two guys for him to learn under.”
Webster said Flynn’s a modern NBA point guard, who has a complete game on the offensive end, plus defends at a high level.
The 22-year-old Flynn played two seasons at Washington State before transferring to SDSU. He averaged a team-high 17.6 points on 44 per cent shooting and 37.3 per cent shooting from three-point range, plus 5.1 assists through 32 games for the Aztecs.
Flynn, wearing a charcoal suit for the virtual draft, celebrated the night at his hometown in Tacoma, Wash., sharing a huge sectional couch with his parents and six older siblings.
Webster said it’s too soon to compare the newcomer to Lowry and VanVleet.
“Those guys are incredibly accomplished. I think as you guys will meet Malachi, he’s a serious kid. He’s professional. He’s about the hard work. He’s about winning,” Webster said. “So I think those will be the natural comparisons.”
The Raptors took Nevada guard Jalen Harris with the 59th pick. The 22-year-old Texan was a late bloomer after breaking his back in high school. He was excellent at Nevada last season, however, averaging 21.7 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.1 steals.
This year’s draft was held virtually due to the pandemic and, originally scheduled for June, ended the longest pre-draft period in history. Because of the Canadian government’s border restrictions, the Raptors had to do much of their research online.
“It was tough,” Webster said of how Wednesday night unfolded. “Every pick would come in, and there would be some gasps and a little bit of disbelief. But you know, all along, Malachi was up there. And that’s who we wanted.”
For Danny Green and the Raptors, the party rages on.
Mixing a bit of work with pleasure, the shooting guard was back in Toronto to celebrate, among other things, the teams’ historic NBA championship victory with fans, during a live taping of his podcast Inside the Green Room with Danny Green at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.
Hosted by Hoop Talks the event got off to a fast start with fans serenading Green – who turned 32 – with a theatre-thumping rendition of Happy Birthday.
Everybody make sure to wish <a href=”https://twitter.com/DGreen_14?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@DGreen_14</a> a happy birthday 🎈🎉 <a href=”https://t.co/A466nco3of”>pic.twitter.com/A466nco3of</a>
The bumps kept coming throughout the night, cumulating in a special video for Green from family and teammates.
While most of his teammates have returned home since the big win, they were sure to wish <a href=”https://twitter.com/DGreen_14?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@DGreen_14</a> a very happy birthday! <a href=”https://t.co/oTE5A4zDyQ”>pic.twitter.com/oTE5A4zDyQ</a>
But Green and co-host Harrison Sanford weren’t the only ones in the spotlight. Superfan Nav Bhatia took the stage, waving a wrestling championship belt. Chanting ‘Let’s Go Raptors‘, Nav stirred up the crowd with a rather intimate confession.
“Guys you all know for 24 years I have never missed a game. I have never been late. I have never left late. I can brag about all those things. But guys, when it comes to my married life it’s hanging by a very, very thin string.”
Steady Freddy rocks show
As Nav left the stage, Fred VanVleet kept the crowd going. The night’s second special guest ran onto the stage, with even more wrestling flair.
When asked about the Warriors’ injuries and whether they detracted from the Raptors win, VanVleet didn’t blink.
“Let’s not kid ourselves, two guys got hurt [Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson]. But from our standpoint so what? It’s not our fault. No one was playing malicious. Nobody was trying to hurt anybody… you never want to see anybody get hurt―it’s the worst part of our game. But we’re supposed to feel sorry for them and let them beat us because somebody got hurt? We’ll take our championship and 20 years from now we’ll have our rings and we’ll be able to tell stories because nobody ever remembers who gets hurt along the way. “
“Nobody ever remembers who gets hurt along the way.”<a href=”https://twitter.com/FredVanVleet?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@FredVanVleet</a> responds to criticism that the <a href=”https://twitter.com/Raptors?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@Raptors</a>’ championship win comes with an asterisk. <a href=”https://t.co/euwdO8xQm0″>pic.twitter.com/euwdO8xQm0</a>
But what about Kawhi Leonard? Ever since the blockbuster-deal that brought the two-time NBA Finals MVP to Toronto last year there has been only one question on people’s mind―will he stay or will he go?
While Green remained diplomatic about both his and Kawhi’s future, VanVleet was more to the point.
“If they leave – God forbid that neither of those guys is back – then they’re on the other side and that’s the way it is.”
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Guard Fred VanVleet and the Toronto Raptors aren’t happy with just being in the NBA Finals.
Toronto squares off against the Golden State Warriors in the league final, which opens Thursday night at Scotiabank Arena. The Raptors are making their first NBA championship appearance versus a Warriors squad in its fifth straight final and chasing a fourth title over that span.
“We’re happy to be taking that next step but you want to win a championship and you want to win the whole thing.” VanVleet told reporters Monday. “It’s not about just making it to the final.
“We’re not satisfied, we’re not happy to be here. We’re really hungry and we want to go out here and have a chance to win it. We’ve earned it, we deserve it and now it’s just a matter of going out there and having to perform at a high level on the biggest stage.”
The Warriors, led by smooth-shooting guard Stephen Curry, have been the toast of the NBA since winning their first title in 40 years 2015. The only blemish on their previous four championship appearances was losing in seven games to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016 despite holding a 3-1 series lead.
Golden State finished atop the Western Conference standings with a 57-25 record while Toronto (58-24) was second in the Eastern Conference behind Milwaukee (60-22).
Toronto dispatched the Bucks dispatched in six games in the East final, clinching the series with a 100-94 home victory Saturday night.
Toronto also swept the regular-season series with Golden State 2-0, but the Warriors reached the final with a 4-0 sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers in the Western Conference final. Golden State will be minus forward Kevin Durant (calf) for Thursday’s contest.
And that’s a big loss for Golden State as Durant is averaging a playoff-leading 34.2 points per game through 11 post-season contests.
Curry has appeared in all 16 of Golden State’s playoff games, averaging 27.3 points per game. What makes Curry tough to defend is his range — he’s a threat to score from well beyond the three-point arc.
VanVleet said there’s no player in the NBA who puts more pressure on opposing defences from the perimeter than Curry.
“I don’t even know if there’s a close second,” he said. “Obviously from a guard being able to shoot that far out just opens the floor up so much.
“He’s just a different kind of player, he changes the entire dynamic of a team . . . of whatever defence you hope to put out there. As a guy who’s going to have to chase him around and make it hard on him, obviously there’s not going to be any time to relax or take plays off. At the end of the day just go out there and try to make it tough on him and challenge him as best I can.”
And one way to do that, VanVleet said, is trying to get into Curry’s grill.
“Any player in the NBA likes space, freedom, movement,” VanVleet said. “Nobody really wants to banged on, touched, held and grabbed.
“You just got to try to be as physical as you can, slow him down and keep the contest. A guy like that, who is a really good shooter against contest, you can’t really give him free looks and let him feel free and easy.
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“But it’s a five-man job, we’ve got to understand that . . . it’s a five-on-five game and our team defence is going to have to be really good. We’re going to make mistakes, we’ve got to be able to clean each other’s mistakes up. We just have to be able to keep playing through runs and mistakes and be able to help each other.”
Toronto hasn’t been exactly chopped liver in the playoffs, going 8-2 at Scotiabank Arena. And forward Kawhi Leonard leads the NBA post-season in total minutes played (696), points scored (561), free throws made (133), and steals (28).
But Leonard, is also a defensive presence, averaging 6.7 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game.
“An offensive scorer who’s been scoring at that clip but can still be a dominant defensive player is pretty special,” VanVleet said. “That’s how you get yourself into some of those conversations as one of the best players to ever lace them up.
“We understand what Kawhi brings to the table and obviously we appreciate him and are glad he’s on our side. We’re going to need him at a high level this series.”