The latest instalment of the Raptors web series “Open Gym” takes viewers back to the first road game of 2018 in Chicago. Fred VanVleet, a native of Illinois, is quick to point out that while Chicago is similar to his hometown of Rockford in terms of weather, they are very much two different cities.
Rockford is located northwest of Chicago, and has a population of approximately 147, 561. This number will soon increase though, as Fred and girlfriend, Shontai, are expecting their first child this spring!
VanVleet is proud of his Rockford roots, never claiming to be from Chicago. He explains, while brushing his hair (of course), that his only connection to Chicago is the basketball tournaments he attended in his youth.
When asked about the number of tickets he requires for the game in Chicago, he tells the Open Gym crew that his allotted tickets are reserved for immediate family only. It makes sense that VanVleet would want his family in attendance, as his stepfather, Joe Danforth, is a key reason Fred works as hard as he does on the court.
As it turns out, with a Lithuanian population of around 50,000 (one tenth of the Lithuanian population of the United States), it is actually Jonas Valanciunas who will require more tickets that evening.
Mindful of Fred playing as close to home as possible, DeMar DeRozan dedicates the pre-game huddle to ”getting a win for Freddy” and the Raptors make good on their promise, defeating the Bulls 124-115, with 13 points from Fred and a career night for Delon Wright.
The next morning the Raptors board a bus and make the hour and thirty minute drive to Milwaukee for the second game of a three game road trip. If you’ve never seen a group of men well over six feet tall trying to comfortably sit on a bus, you’re in for a treat with this episode.
Upon arrival in Milwaukee, Kyle Lowry is asked how he and his teammates keep Norman Powell, whose struggles have been documented by Raptors HQ and basically every other person who has watched Norm’s decline this season, from losing his mind. Kyle chuckles and tells reporters that Norm is very much still a part of the team, and that he does not doubt Norm’s talent. Pascal Siakam, when asked the same question, echoes Kyle’s response. C.J. Miles, in his years of wisdom, reminisces on a time when he was in the same position as Norm, and that many players in the league have been in similar situations. C.J. also acknowledges the possibility that Powell’s issues are more confidence and emotionally driven, and that Norm will force his way back into rotation and even be the reason the Raptors win some games. Seriously, they don’t call him the Bench Dad for nothing. While Powell only played five minutes, the Raptors beat the Bucks for the second time in a row, 129-110.
The episode finishes in Brooklyn, with the final game of the road trip. This, of course, was the infamous butt breaker game for Kyle Lowry. It was an ugly game, with the Raptors winning by a single point in overtime, but enough to send the team home with a three game sweep.