The three-year, max-level contract offered to Fred VanVleet by the Houston Rockets simply proved too lavish to pass up. As the seven-year veteran leaves the only franchise he's ever known, though, VanVleet continues holding the Toronto Raptors and city itself in extremely high regard.
VanVleet posted a farewell to his former team and its fans on Instagram Sunday morning, thanking Toronto for helping pave his way from undrafted four-year college player to NBA champion, All-Star and father of three.
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VanVleet agreed to a three-year, $130 million deal with the Rockets in the opening hours of free agency on Friday. Though he'd long been rumored as a likely target for Houston this summer, VanVleet reportedly gave real consideration to re-upping with the Raptors before the Rockets' front office made an offer he couldn't refuse—and Masai Ujiri deemed too expensive for Toronto to match.
Undrafted out of Wichita State in 2016, VanVleet and fellow rookie Pascal Siakam led Raptors 905 to a G League title the following year. He emerged as a fixture off the bench for Toronto in 2018, then played an indispensable role during the Raptors' 2019 championship run, hounding Stephen Curry across the floor and draining triple after triple against the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals.
VanVleet's been Toronto's on-court and locker room leader pretty much ever since, taking the mantle from DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry before him as one of the most beloved players in team history. He joins a young Rockets team in dire need of direction and culture, with owner Tilman Fertitta thirsting for legitimacy after three straight years of bottom-dwelling.
Losing VanVleet is a tough blow for the Raptors, who've reached a crossroads amid his exit in wake of a disappointing 2022-23 season. At least fans can take solace knowing VanVleet will forever cherish his time in Toronto, just like they'll never forget it, either.