The Toronto Raptors saw their typically solid locker room vibes crumble to dust last season, as Fred VanVleet struggled, Scottie Barnes stagnated, and Nick Nurse got fired. Masai Ujiri’s quest to fix things up and get everything back on the right track needs to address some of the issues off the court.
With VanVleet now a member of the Houston Rockets, insiders like Michael Grange are starting to show just exactly where many of the bad vibes emanated from. It appears that VanVleet and Pascal Siakam may have been at the center of a power struggle alongside the younger players.
“Sources have described a team where the veterans — VanVleet and Siakam especially — were deeply frustrated with the younger players on the roster,” Grange said. “VanVleet let them know about it, something the younger set didn’t appreciate. Nurse wasn’t able to bridge the divide as key players kept getting hurt and open three after open three drew only iron.”
Grange also said that Ujiri repeatedly addressed the team, including a few personal sit-downs with Barnes, and ripped the team for their poor play. Nurse was reportedly so unnerved by the situation that he was planning his eventual exit in the middle of the season.
NBA rumors: Raptors had behind-the-scenes friction in 2022-23.
The vibes being off last season were palpable to anyone who watched a minute of Raptors basketball. Players were unhappy with their roles, and the team’s constantly disappointing play, exhibited by losing winnable games, only exacerbated all of those myriad issues.
If VanVleet was the source of some of that bad mojo, could the Raptors actually end up making additions via subtraction? Siakam is still around, but the loss of VanVleet could empower Barnes without cutting into Pascal’s role as the head of the proverbial snake too much.
New head coach Darko Rajakovic may have been unaware of just how lethal the toxicity from last season was, but the Raptors owe it to him to provide a drama-free work environment that will allow his new-look offense to take shape and resonate with many of his players.
Running it back with VanVleet may have proved to be too venomous for this Raptors team.