Title: The big time bet: Inside Fred VanVleet’s restricted free agency
Date: September 18, 2018
Original Source: The Athletic
Synopsis: In my latest for The Athletic Toronto, I went deep with Fred VanVleet on his free agent decision, his first “ignorant” purchase with a new deal, and his “movie storyline” career to this point.
For several seasons, there has been a sort of rite of passage among the young Toronto Raptors. A depth team built around two perennial all-stars, the Raptors were no strangers to large and sometimes unexpected contributions from up and down the roster, with 12 different players scored 15 or more points in a game last year. Despite the frequency of such additional scoring, those big nights from players other than DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry became cause for celebration and playful derision.
Being called big time, is the less well-intentioned spiritual predecessor to Lucas Nogueira calling someone “high level” and the Raptors own version of a game-ball. Have a big night or make a big play and there is no escaping the assertion that you’ve become big time, that you’ve outgrown the rest of the young supporting cast. It’s the cost of playing well: A media scrum, the unexpected attention and relentless requests — cries, often — for a shout out.
Nobody has received that treatment more in the last year than Fred VanVleet.
Claims that VanVleet was becoming big time date back to his first preseason with the team, when he and Norman Powell exchanged barbs, and VanVleet rose from undrafted point guard to a key component of the league’s best bench. There is the hilarious image of Jonas Valanciunas holding a piece of paper with “22” written on it, a la Wilt Chamberlain, for a then-career-high scoring night, a litany of photo- and video-bombs as more media time was requested. By the end of the year, VanVleet was an analytics darling, a Sixth Man of the Year candidate, one of the league’s most interesting free agents, and, in the eyes of his teammates, decidedly big time.