TORONTO – Toronto Raptors keep Fred VanVleet is preparing for the suspended NBA season not to continue and if that happens, he is not sure health problems can be adequately addressed as long as the coronavirus pandemic remains a threat.
“I think everyone is just preparing for the worst case scenario, the season is canceled,” Van Vleet said in a conference call on Wednesday. “We must do what we have to do to try to hit the best possible blow for us as players and owners and the league, while also trying to continue as best we can.”
Speaking from his home in Rockford, Illinois, VanVleet – a skeptic who describes himself – questioned whether returning action could be carried out safely, and said he did not like the idea of playing in front of an empty arena.
“I can play anywhere,” he said. “Do I want to play in front of no one? No, but does it really matter? At this point, I don’t think anyone will fight with what happened, as long as the health of the first person and foremost, we know it’s possible will not happen.
“If our league will be a leader in terms of public health and public safety and player safety, you must follow the guidelines about what the virus is talking about to you, so we will most likely face us in that regard,” VanVleet added. “But money, right? So, I think they will find a way somehow, and try to make it happen. I can definitely see it going well. I won’t be surprised if we don’t return and I won’t be surprised if we return.”
NBA commissioner Adam Silver said player safety would be a priority in any decision made about this season while emphasizing that everything was on the table.
The corona virus pandemic will also affect free agency.
VanVleet was set to free agent this summer and acknowledged that he had thought about it, but said he was trying to stay in perspective during the pandemic. He averaged a career high of 17.6 points and 6.6 assists in 48 games before playing was stopped in March.
“I think the league and trade unions will try to do a good job of ensuring that free agents this summer get a fair shake and there is fair negotiation,” said VanVleet, who signed a two-year, $ 18 million agreement to stay with Toronto before the season 2018-19, when the Raptors won their first NBA title. “Obviously, we all might get hit at some point, and hopefully that blow will only be minimized until this year.”
However, VanVleet is still philosophical about the impact of lost wages for stellar athletes in an environment where millions of people around the world suddenly face much more serious financial difficulties.
“I think human health and well-being, and the mindset, is far more important than a few million here or there, because we are rich compared to what we came from in the first place,” he said. “So I don’t think anyone’s crying about that.”
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