Fred VanVleet: Raptors back to pre-Kawhi Leonard era

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Fred VanVleet: Raptors back to pre-Kawhi Leonard era

Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet thinks the Raptors are again being overlooked and doubted and he is excited to get back to work and prove the doubters wrong. The Raptors claimed their lone NBA title in 2019 but the player who led them to the NBA Championship -- Kawhi Leonard -- didn't even try to win back-to-back titles with Toronto as left the Raptors for the Los Angeles Clippers.

Last season, the Raptors made the Eastern Conference Semifinals before losing to the Boston Celtics in a seven-game series. "I'm excited about what we've got," VanVleet said, per ESPN. "I think we're kind of headed back in the direction of where we were pre-Kawhi [Leonard], where people are overlooking us again, which is not a bad place to be in.

"We've got a lot of work to do and we've got to get a lot better as individuals, and then we'll go out there and see what we can do. I'm excited. I can't wait to get back to work."

VanVleet rewarded for his big season

VanVleet, who averaged 17.6 points and 6.6 assists last season, tweeted "Bet on yourself" in 2016 and four years later he broke the record for the biggest deal signed by an undrafted player in NBA history.

This offseason, the Raptors rewarded VanVleet with a new four-year, $85 million contract. "It's weird," VanVleet. "Anybody who knows me knows how I am, so it's just funny. But I always feel like I'm right, so it's not like a big deal to me.

I always felt like I knew what I was talking about when I got up there and I had to speak. I really meant those words. That was coming from the heart, but I really felt like I was right and I knew that it would work out for me.

"At that time, I might have been one of a handful of people who believed that, but here we are today. I guess it's more interesting to see how you have to be on your own, standing on your own two [feet], and do it that way and then people will follow you and jump on the bandwagon and they will start to see it after you make them see it.

"That's the fun part for me, seeing how this following is kind of growing and watching everybody try to pretend to be underdogs and adopt the 'Bet on yourself' thing. It's becoming mainstream now, which is hilarious to me."