Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo drives past Toronto Raptors’ Fred VanVleet during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021, in Milwaukee. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Morry Gash

Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo drives past Toronto Raptors’ Fred VanVleet during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021, in Milwaukee. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Morry Gash

Raptors VanVleet keeping all-star snub in perspective amid global pandemic

VanVleet averaging 19.8 points

With the world still reeling in a global pandemic, Fred VanVleet is keeping the NBA all-star game in perspective.

VanVleet and the Toronto Raptors had hoped he would earn his first all-star selection, but the guard was left off the roster for the March 7 game in Atlanta.

“There’s too much real (stuff) going on in the world for me to be crying about making the all-star game,” VanVleet said after Tuesday night’s 109-102 loss to Philadelphia.

VanVleet is averaging 19.8 points, and has been excellent carrying the point guard load in the absence of injured Kyle Lowry.

VanVleet said his family and friends spent Tuesday trying to convince him he would be named to the team.

“I’ve been managing everybody’s expectations,” he said.

He heard the bad news moments before stepping on the floor of Amalie Arena to face the Sixers.

“As much as it doesn’t matter, it does matter, if that makes sense,” VanVleet said. “I’m not going to lie and say, ‘Oh, I don’t care.’ Obviously I care, and it’s something that I want to be a part of some day.

“But I just think having the proper perspective on it (is important), and the understanding that I’m not going anywhere. This is not going to be my last year being up for an all-star.”

For the first time since 2014, no Raptors made the all-star team, as coaches voted Brooklyn’s James Harden, Boston’s Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, New York’s Julius Randle, Chicago’s Zach LaVine, Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons, and Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic as backups for the Eastern Conference.

Raptors coach Nick Nurse said he was “very disappointed” VanVleet was overlooked.

“I was trying to stop the narrative. The narrative I kept hearing was ‘Oh, if you guys wouldn’t have had such a bad start.’ Well, the voting just ended (Monday), we’re like 14-7 in our last 21 (games), were you still stuck on our 2-8 start?

“Kyle’s been out of a bunch of games. (VanVleet) has picked up the slack for a six-time all-star, won a lot of games, beat a lot of good teams, had huge games. I’m disappointed. I take nothing away from the guys that made it… but I think he’s played his guts out and our team’s played pretty well, and he’s been a big reason for it.”

VanVleet said earlier this week that if he didn’t make the team, he’d spend the all-star break relaxing on a beach.

It’s not the first time the 26-year-old from Rockford, Ill., has gone without hearing his name called. Mr. “Bet on Yourself” went undrafted. This past off-season, the Raptors re-signed the guard to a four-year deal worth US$85 million — the richest contract for an undrafted NBA player.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2021.

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