This season has been a slog for the Toronto Raptors.
So much of the year has been spoiled by playing away from home and battling COVID-19 issues. It's turned this season into what Fred VanVleet called the most "unpure" season of basketball he's ever played. Lately, however, the team has found a way to get some positivity back on the court.
The additions of Freddie Gillespie and Khem Birch have reinvigorated the team, VanVleet said. Gillespie's youthful exuberance and the newfound success of Birch have given Toronto something to get excited about.
"That sparked us again, so the vibe has been good ever since those few games and it’s been a great atmosphere in practice," he said. "Nick [Nurse] has done a great job of getting everybody excited again about what we’re doing and what we’re trying to do and it’s been fun."
Even in a lost season, VanVleet said the team is really focused on development. He sees a core built around himself, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Malachi Flynn, and likely Khem Birch and is optimistic for the future. While that may not mean playoff games this season, the fight for that final play-in spot gives Toronto's young core something to fight for in meaningful games down the stretch.
"It's been a hell of a year keeping everybody positive and on the same page and just trying to get better," VanVleet said. "We found [positivity] — we started without it, then we found it and obviously life happened, things happened and we had to get it back. That’s life, man, it’s ups and downs and as long as we stay together and stay positive we’ll be fine."