);
Toronto Raptors

Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet says 'people are overlooking us again' ahead of upcoming NBA season

As the Dec. 22 start date of the 2020-21 NBA season quickly nears, a number of teams have emerged as "favourites" to come out of the Eastern Conference.

While the Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers are garnering plenty of headlines, the Toronto Raptors are often an afterthought despite still having a number of key members from their 2019 championship roster, one of which being Fred VanVleet, who recently held a press conference after signing a four-year deal worth $85 million to remain with Toronto.

To the undrafted VanVleet, being counted out is nothing new - for him, or for the Raptors: "We're back where we were pre-Kawhi where people are overlooking us again…" VanVleet said, per Blake Murphy of The Athletic. "…Which isn't a bad place to be … I can't wait to get back to work."

VanVleet, who joined the Raptors in 2016, has now been a part of four separate playoff runs with the franchise - two before the arrival of Kawhi Leonard, the championship run of 2019 and last year's run that came just one win shy of the third Conference Finals appearance in franchise history.

That Toronto was a few bounces shy of advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals despite losing the Finals MVP in free agency says all you need to know about the resolve of this team and its leaders. At the top of that list stand VanVleet, Pascal Siakam and Kyle Lowry, who has had an impact that VanVleet told reporters is "hard to put into words."

New challenges face the 2020-21 Raptors, who, in addition to losing two more key players Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka to free agency, will also begin the season at the temporary home of Tampa, FL due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

MORE: What does Baynes bring to the Raptors?

A native of Rockford, IL, VanVleet spoke on the move, saying that he misses Toronto, which has become a second home for him, adding that the silver lining in the team's inability to play in Canada is that they chose a warm locale.

Despite some of the offseason losses, the Raptors have looked to re-tool by signing centres Aron Baynes and Alex Len, wing DeAndre' Bembry and re-signing Canadian Chris Boucher, who stands to have an increased role in the upcoming season.

The aforementioned four, along with the team's core four of Lowry, Siakam, VanVleet and OG Anunoby, will look to put everyone who makes the mistake of overlooking this team on notice.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

More from NBA.com

nba-plain--da42b1cb-ddf7-4002-90a7-814cb13e2b9f.jpeg
Brogdon too much for Raptors to handle
Scott Rafferty
getimage.ashx-64.jpeg
Live updates from Monday's action
NBA.com Staff
nba-plain--51cf1f76-d856-43c9-b348-dd0eb6e799ab.jpeg
Running diary from Toronto's loss to Indiana
Scott Rafferty
#Sabonis
Sabonis exits game vs. Raps with injury, set for MRI
NBA.com Staff
nba-plain--ace63145-28f0-49ed-bc45-0f2746385667.jpeg
NBA postpones game between Spurs and Pelicans
Official Release
nba-plain--52b9e129-aaeb-46e3-a9a5-121a73adbb6e.jpeg
Report: VanVleet to be named to Team USA player pool
Scott Rafferty
More News