By Michael Hobson
The talk in Toronto is constant as is the concern. The Raptors need to at least get out of the first round, if not advance to the conference finals, for star shooting guard and upcoming free agent DeMar DeRozan to re-sign with the club. I believe the talk, and the concern, is unwarranted.
When a discussion ensues, whether in the media or among the Raptor faithful, about the possibility of DeRozan fleeing Toronto I think back to that somewhat dark spring afternoon shortly after Kyle Lowry’s failed shot to win the seventh game versus the Brooklyn Nets two springs ago.
In the post game press conference DeRozan, when asked about Lowry’s free agency, said that he respected his teammate and that he wouldn’t offer any advice, it was Lowry’s decision to make. But then DeRozan uttered the now famous three words in answer to question of if he thought Lowry to leave. DeRozan answered, “Why would he.”
It wasn’t a question, it was a statement.
DeRozan would have been shocked if Lowry had left Toronto. Free agents talk about situation, about place, about possibilities and about contention when discussing landing spots. They want to be comfortable, they want to like the city, and mostly they want to contend for a title. Lowry found that all his questions and concerns were answered by staying with Toronto.
I believe DeRozan comes to the same conclusion this summer.
In fact DeRozan has an even stronger pull to Toronto. While Lowry bounced around the league, drafted by Memphis and traded to Houston before landing in Toronto, DeRozan was drafted, developed and became a star in Toronto.
The Raptors are going to pay DeRozan this summer. It may not be the absolute maximum considering the Raps may need a few dollars to either re-sign Bismack Biyombo or go out and sign another free agent, but DeRozan will be paid. The Raptors can offer more years and more money than any other team and since DeRozan is still young — he will be 27 in August — the Raps will have no qualms in offering the five year max.
So DeRozan can make his money in Toronto meaning:
- He won’t go elsewhere for the coin.
- He can continue to play for an up and coming contender that is enjoying the best regular season in franchise history.
- He can stay in the one city he has known his entire adult life and for the franchise that has turned him into a two-time all-star and a member of the US Olympic team.
DeRozan cannot find all those attributes in any other city.
Now there are those who possess an inferiority complex when it comes to an American athlete playing in Canada. The one concern is that DeRozan will go home to Los Angeles and take over from Kobe Bryant as the centerpiece of the Lakers franchise. That may have been an appealing scenario when he was a teenager playing high school and then college basketball in the LA area, but DeRozan is an adult now with ties to the Toronto community. DeRozan has a fiancée and a daughter of nearly three who has grown up in Toronto.
As well the Lakers are rebuilding with a team that rivals the Raptor squad from DeRozan’s sophomore season. The Lakers are a mess. Just ask former Raptor Lou Williams who would have loved a return to Toronto, but did not receive an offer and instead took the best available deal and signed with the Lakers. Los Angeles, with several young players on the roster, will be rebuilding for years.
The Lakers are in a similar situation to the Raptors when DeRozan came into the league. He played one season with Chris Bosh who left after the season to play with friends in Miami. DeRozan saw and lived through the Bosh lies to both the organization and the community about a willingness to stay when in fact Bosh had colluded with Dwyane Wade and Lebron James eighteen months previous for the trio to join forces in Miami. The Raptors were left in the dust with nothing to show for having drafted and developed an NBA star. Toronto managed just 22 wins in that first post-Bosh season.
DeRozan still talks about the difficulties of the rebuild. He talks constantly about having endured the tough times and that the organization has finally made it to the other side. Would he be willing, entering his prime years, to start over again? Not likely.
A new coach was brought in the next year — present coach Dwane Casey — and the team began to restructure around DeRozan. This is DeRozan’s seventh season in the NBA and, judging by the team’s record, his finest. No matter what happens in the playoffs — even if the club is upset in the first round — DeRozan will stay with his good friend Lowry and continue to help push the Raptors toward a championship.
Will DeRozan leave this summer? Why would he.
Michael Hobson, Sports columnist and author
Follow him on twitter @mhobson12