Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet (23) and forward Pascal Siakam (43) virtually shake hands before the team's NBA basketball game against the Orlando Magic on August 5, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Kim Klement - POOL

Raptors’ VanVleet said the blame and guilt associated with COVID-19 is unfair

Raptors’ VanVleet said the blame and guilt associated with COVID-19 is unfair

Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet has been vocal for months about the blame laid on NBA players and others who catch COVID-19.

The truth to his words mean even more now that he’s been sick himself.

On a night that saw four Raptors cleared to return to practice, VanVleet confirmed he tested positive for COVID-19, and suffered symptoms he called “rough.”

On a lengthy Zoom availability Tuesday night, he reiterated his thoughts about unfair blame around the global pandemic, and singled out one report that pointed fingers at Raptors coaches, claiming they weren’t following mask protocol.

“It’s just a lot that comes with the blame. It’s such a heavy illness and how it’s affected our world in the last 12 months, that there comes a blame (with it), like it’s anybody’s fault,” VanVleet said. “But once you get it, you understand: Like, I don’t know where I got it from… the doctors don’t know.

“People sitting at home or trying to figure it out from afar, putting unrealistic thoughts and blame on people, that was a little bit disappointing. It’s a tricky thing because the first thing you think of is: Well, how did you get it? Well, I don’t know, I’ve been following every rule since the rules came out.”

VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, Malachi Flynn and Patrick McCaw rejoined practice in Detroit on Tuesday, after being sidelined for health and safety protocols for nearly two weeks. OG Anunoby travelled to Detroit, but isn’t cleared to return yet.

VanVleet isolated in a hotel room away from his partner and their two young kids. He said it’s an experience he won’t soon forget, suffering from a sore back, sore eyes, body aches, and a headache.

“Definitely nothing like anything I’ve ever had. I could feel that it was something different, I could feel the sickness, I could just feel it in me,” he said.

He had two bad days before he started to feel better, but is still “taking baby steps” in his recovery, and doesn’t know whether he’ll be ready to play Wednesday.

“I wouldn’t wish it on anybody,” he said. “I’m here, I’m alive, I’m breathing. I know there are a lot of people that didn’t make it through COVID. My thoughts and heart are with the families and people that have been affected by this thing that weren’t as fortunate as I am.”

VanVleet is listed as “doubtful,” while Siakam, McCaw and Flynn were upgraded to “questionable” versus the Pistons. It’s unknown whether the other four Raptors tested positive or were sidelined because of contact tracing.

Siakam has missed the past six games, while the others have each missed five.

Their healthy return will be good news for a Raptors team that has lost five straight to drop to 11th in the Eastern Conference at 17-22.

VanVleet said while the highlight of his day during isolation was watching games, it wasn’t easy viewing. He tried to keep his teammates’ spirits up even from his hotel room.

“Just trying to talk guys off the ledge, man,” VanVleet said. “(Telling them) ‘Just gotta get one. Just gotta get one,’ and that turned into most of the conversation. But that one never came, so I just ended up just keeping the guys locked in and just ‘Listen, we’ll be back, we’ll have our team back at some point.’:

Coach Nick Nurse said the players’ return was a big boost to the team’s spirits.

“Guys just showing up at the plane, mini-celebrations for each new guy that comes back, either coach or player. Just a lot of ’Good to see you, man’ going on there and then obviously on the court … actually almost had the whole roster out there tonight.”

The returning players will be carefully managed.

“It’s certainly an individual case-by-case basis and whether you had it or not had it, there’s guys that have been out for a long time so it’s conditioning in general, general wellbeing is at the forefront and managing the minutes and making sure and asking the guys to be honest with themselves,” Nurse said.

“I think there’s a little bit of give and take there, but I think very cautious is where I’d put it.”

VanVleet said despite contracting the illness, he said the “NBA has been doing a good job” of playing amid the pandemic.

“But what, 27 teams? I think we were the 27th team, 26th team to have some cases, so join the club,” he said.

The 27-year-old from Rockford, Ill., said he didn’t sleep at all Sunday night, partly due to excitement about his return and partly because he was consoling his son Fred Jr., who’d “busted his eye up.”

“I caught myself walking into the gym just smiling, smiling like I forgot how much I love this (stuff),” said VanVleet, who’d been so bored in isolation, he asked the Raptors moderator to allow for more media questions, when the moderator announced the Zoom call was ending.

“I really love the game, I really love basketball, I really love being in the gym, I don’t always love everything that comes with it, you know what I’m saying? But it’s just a blessing being back and having that taken away from me for that period of time where you just go cold turkey, nothing … I’ve been giving out more hugs in the last 24 hours than I ever have in my life so I’m happy just to be back.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 16, 2021.

Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press

raptors

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Instructor Brandt Trimble leads an outdoor spin class at RYDE RD. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)
Fitness facilities continue to adapt to COVID-19 restrictions

‘It’s really frustrating to be one of the targeted businesses’

Red Deer-Lacombe MP Blaine Calkins (Photo contributed)
Federal budget strangles job growth, says MP Blaine Calkins

‘It is most certainly not a balanced budget’

Kids at Lotsa’Tots West Day Care in Red Deer act out how a caterpillar moves with co-owner and instructor Shireen Sewcharran-Wiebe. Child care providers are hoping Alberta’s provincial government will help fund the national child care program announced this week. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).
Alberta day care providers hope Alberta will get onboard with national child care program

Some question whether the UCP’s ideology will stand in the way

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney shakes hands with Jason Nixon, minister of Environment and Parks after being sworn into office, in Edmonton on Tuesday April 30, 2019. Town council from the largest municipality in Nixon's constituency is concerned over the province's consultation plans for open-pit coal mining in the Rocky Mountains. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Town of Rocky Mountain House wants better coal consultation

ROCKY MOUNTAIN HOUSE, Alta. — Town council from the largest municipality in… Continue reading

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange was in Red Deer on Friday to provide an update on the province's COVID-19 response in schools.
Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
Alberta government aiming for more financial literacy learning in junior and senior high schools

Government providing grants to organizations who will help design financial literacy programming

A vial of the Medicago vaccine sits on a surface. CARe Clinic, located in Red Deer, has been selected to participate in the third phase of vaccine study. (Photo courtesy www.medicago.com)
Red Deer clinical research centre participating in plant-based COVID-19 vaccine trial

A Red Deer research centre has been selected to participate in the… Continue reading

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks at a television screen as he listens to United States President Joe Biden deliver a statement during a virtual joint statement following a virtual meeting in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
‘We hope to help a little more’: Biden says he spoke to Trudeau about more vaccines

WASHINGTON — Canada can look forward to an unexpected shot in the… Continue reading

The Mission Correctional Institution in Mission, B.C. is pictured Tuesday, April 14, 2020. A new federal study found that people released from prison were much more likely than the general population to have trouble finding gainful employment, even over a decade after returning to society. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Ease employment hurdles for former prison inmates, federal study urges

OTTAWA — A new federal study found that people released from prison… Continue reading

Governor of the Bank of Canada Tiff Macklem holds a press conference at the Bank Of Canada in Ottawa on Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Bank of Canada keeps rate on hold, sees brighter economic outlook

OTTAWA — The Bank of Canada is keeping its key interest rate… Continue reading

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a technical briefing on the COVID pandemic in Canada, Friday, January 15, 2021 in Ottawa. Tam says new information on COVID-19 and variants prompted the National Advisory Committee on Immunization to suddenly cancel its planned update on who should get the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
AstraZeneca advice from national panel delayed by new data on COVID-19 and variants

OTTAWA — Canada’s chief public health officer says new information on COVID-19… Continue reading

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks at a television screen as he listens to United States President Joe Biden deliver a statement during a virtual joint statement following a virtual meeting in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau pressured to adopt tougher emissions target for Biden climate summit

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is under pressure to step up… Continue reading

Passengers from Air India flight 187 from New Delhi wait for their transportation to quarantine after arriving at Pearson Airport in Toronto on Wednesday, April 21, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
ICU pressures mount as COVID fells younger people; Ottawa mulls India travel ban

TORONTO — Amid mounting pressures on critical care in hospitals and concerns… Continue reading

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland delivers the federal budget in the House of Commons as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on in Ottawa on Monday April 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Three confidence votes to determine fate of minority Liberal government

OTTAWA — A pair of proposed changes to the federal budget put… Continue reading

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland talks with parents during a virtual discussion on child care in Ottawa, Wednesday, April 21, 2021. Freeland is calling for patience and “flexibility” in response to questions about the government’s criteria for reopening the economy and border. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Freeland urges patience as business looks for answers on reopening border, economy

OTTAWA — Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland is urging Canadian companies to… Continue reading

Most Read