"Coach Fred": Injured VanVleet picks up new role for Raptors after Nurse's ejection

Mar 4 2022, 2:43 pm

Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet has picked up many distinctions in his career: NBA champion, all-star, the highest paid undrafted player in league history, and now… coach?

In the midst of a career year, VanVleet has been sidelined the last three games with a knee injury.

But when Raptors coach Nick Nurse was ejected following his second technical foul in Thursday night’s matchup against the Detroit Pistons, there suddenly was a chance for the always-vocal VanVleet to step up again.

Nurse was ejected with 2:27 left in the third quarter after arguing a follow call on Dalano Banton, with the Raptors trailing 88-72.

“We appreciate it him going to bat for us and fighting,” Pascal Siakam said postgame.

Nurse’s staff, led by assistant Adrian Griffin, picked up some of the slack in his absence, but Raptors fans were quick to point out how VanVleet quickly seemed to take an even more vocal role along the sidelines, calling out plays and directing traffic for his teammates.

VanVleet’s teammates couldn’t quite pull of the win for him, though. Despite an impressiveĀ  comeback, the Raptors fell 108-106 to the Pistons. Amazingly, it’s the sixth loss in a row for the Raptors against the Pistons (and third this season), who are coached by former Toronto boss Dwane Casey.

While his NBA career should have plenty of mileage left on it, some even speculated that VanVleet could be taking over as the full-time coach one day.

With the loss, the Raptors fell to 34-28 on the season, and currently sit in seventh place in the Eastern Conference. They’ll be right back at it Friday night though, with a matchup against the Orlando Magic tipping off at 7:30 pm at Scotiabank Arena.

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