Fred VanVleet has routinely bet on himself throughout his NBA career. As the former undrafted guard embarks on his next basketball chapter with the Houston Rockets, it's hardly surprising he's not running from the pressure inevitably associated with the lavish contract he signed in free agency.
“It's definitely more pressure. It's a lot of pressure,” he told Channing Crowder and Ryan Clark on the Pivot Podcast. “Obviously, when you sign that dotted line, anything nine figures is pressure, right? From the franchise, from the city, from an ownership standpoint. They're puttin' a lot of money behind me and what I'm able to contribute.”
"There's definitely more pressure… I think that being in the spot that the team is in right now, I think it's really only up from here."
New Rockets guard Fred VanVleet on signing a $130 million contract and living up to it 🗣
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) July 7, 2023
VanVleet inked a three-year, $130 million contract with Houston on the opening day of free agency, a max contract the Toronto Raptors opted against matching despite his years-long status as a franchise cornerstone. The Raptors' decision to move on from VanVleet was even more surprising when word came that the third year on his contract was a team option, lessening the financial sticker shock of his new annual salary.
Houston overhauled its roster this summer, selecting Amen Thompson with the No. 4 overall pick of the 2023 NBA Draft then adding several veterans in free agency to jumpstart what's been an arduous rebuilding process since trading James Harden in January 2021.
Under the on- and off-court tutelage of stalwart veterans like himself and Jeff Green, Fred VanVleet seems optimistic the young Rockets will take a crucial developmental step in 2023-24.
“I think that being in the spot that the team is in right now, I think it's really only up from here,” he said. “So it's like if you add to that, put some vets in there like we did with the young crew that they got, I'm excited about some of the things that we'll be able to do. It's like that sweet spot of trying to turn young talent into something. I think that's one thing I'll be able to do, is get the best out of my teammates.”