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Fred VanVleet elicits memories of Kyle Lowry

Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Raptors

If there was ever a flicker of doubt Fred VanVleet would be the heir apparent to Kyle Lowry when it comes to leadership and tenacity, Wednesday night’s game should have extinguished it.

For the first time in his career, VanVleet recorded a double-double with rebounds, grabbing a career-high 10 boards against the Indiana Pacers. He was everywhere—picking up the long misses on deep twos and threes, battling underneath the rim when helping on the Pacers’ big men, and even zooming instinctively to the perfect spots for some well-timed snags on the offensive glass.

“[I wasn’t] that surprised,” VanVleet said post-game about his performance. “[Domantas] Sabonis is a guy you’ve gotta give a lot of attention to so we were boxing out, rotating out, and they shot quite a bit of jumpers early, and the ball was bouncing towards the free throw line area.”

During his nine-season career in Toronto, Lowry proved to be one of the best rebounding guards in the league despite his undersized stature. He was notorious for knowing exactly where to be on every possession, utilizing his frame to the best of his ability and skying into traffic with reckless, heart-stopping abandon.

He ranks third on the Raptors’ all-time rebounding list with 2954 boards (outpacing big men like Antonio Davis and Amir Johnson), and eighth in offensive rebounds with 475, specifically.

There was never a limit to the amount of physical strain Lowry would put on himself in order to win. He was relentless and savvy, often finding himself crashing to the floor after getting himself tangled with another player in an attempt to grab an offensive rebound.

That same physicality was what VanVleet played with on Wednesday, and he knows it’s what his team needs to play with going forward, especially considering their defensive-minded focus and the different whistle league officials have implemented this season.

“I mean, other than the first game I think we’ve been pretty physical in every game we’ve played,” Fred VanVleet said. “So yes, we’re adjusting to it, adapting to it. It’s gonna take some time, I thought we were very physical tonight, OG [Anunoby] set the tone in the paint offensively. I thought all five guys were on the same page defensively to start the game and it’s something we’ll continue to get better with and learn.”

More than in any season Lowry played with the team, Toronto is placing an emphasis on offensive rebounding in order to help mitigate their half-court struggles. Through five games, they own the league’s top offensive rebounding percentage (36.9) and rank first in put-back plays created per 100 misses (23.4), per Cleaning The Glass.

When it comes to glass-eating, it’s all hands on deck. And VanVleet, as the de facto leader of the team, is doing his part to set the tone in a way that his former teammate and mentor would, one must assume, certainly be proud of.

“My rule is if it gets below head level, it’s mine,” Fred VanVleet said with a smile. “Anything up there by the rim is, somebody else gotta get that one.”