Usually the most difficult and frustrating trips are the most rewarding.

This has been the Scottie Barnes experience for Fred VanVleet this season. It’s like, come on man, you have all the physical and talented gifts in the world, let’s put it all together. What are we waiting for? But VanVleet, the leader of the Toronto Raptors this season, understands that’s not how development works.

“It’s definitely one of the toughest projects I’ve had,” VanVleet said Friday night. “Sometimes he does plays that you can see the sight and feel and some things that’s hard to teach and he’s had a lot of big plays tonight. There’s really nothing he can’t do on the pitch.

And yet there are those momentary errors in judgment that infuriate VanVleet. Why, he must ask himself, is the youth wasted on the youth? How is it that Barnes can defensively lock down some of the most explosive players in the league, pull his shot like an NBA veteran or make offensive reads and blind passes like few others, and yet a few possessions later he will make a misguided back pass to nowhere or shoot the clock to three points early for no apparent reason.

“It’s just being loose and understanding the value of possessions and time and score and how quickly momentum can change,” VanVleet said. “Just because we’re 18 or 17, now’s not the time to start trying things out. You can go to the wrong side of this race very quickly.

When VanVleet burst into the league, an undrafted player trying to fight for minutes in a 51-31 squad, there was no wiggle room for stupid mistakes. One or two slips in his NBA few minutes could have been the end of his career. But on this 2021-22 Raptors team, the situation is quite different. This season is all about development, especially Barnes, and while everyone – including me – has praised the 20-year-old who has become one of the two favorites for the Rookie of the Year award. year this season, VanVleet has to take a different approach.

He’s on him every day, VanVleet said. He won’t let Barnes get away with mistakes every now and then. Instead, he’ll take it aside, even in the moment, and explain how things are meant to be done there.

But despite all the frustration this season, VanVleet recognized that it was sometimes a fun challenge. It forced him to become a bigger leader, to constantly explain all the little things that will make Barnes a future star, knowing that one day it will pay off in the same way as VanVleet as he learned under the wing of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry.

“It’s not always perfect but I think we have great chemistry,” VanVleet said of his relationship with Barnes. “We are going through all difficult times. “

Further reading

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