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NBA Toronto Raptors DeMar DeRozan

A Cold Wind Of Change Blows Thru Toronto

A new air mass arrived in Toronto on Tuesday and with the more pleasant temperatures came a cold wind of change for the Raptors. The always ruthless Masai Ujiri has shipped the face of his franchise to San Antonio.

Thanks to ESPN’s WOJ, we now know All-Star DeMar DeRozan, promising young center Jakob Poeltl and a top-20 protected draft pick has been traded for two-time Defensive Player of the Year Kawhi Leonard and “3-and-D” veteran wing Danny Green.

Maybe everyone in Toronto should have seen this coming. The face of the franchise had been BENCHED numerous times this past season in the fourth quarter because the soon-to-be Coach of the Year Dwane Casey had much better defensive options in his young second unit and offense was only rarely an issue for this team in their run to first place in the Eastern Conference. It was sold as rest, but that wasn’t always easy to accept.

DeRozan has earned his popularity with the fan base since being drafted ninth overall in 2009 and being thrust into the spotlight with the departure of Chris Bosh the next summer.

 

NBA Spurs DeMar DeRozan

 

DeRozan holds franchise records for regular season games played (675), minutes (22,986), field goals (4716), free throws made (3539), and points (13,296). In the playoffs, where DeRozan often gets flak, the All-Star never averaged less than 20 points and in his 51 career playoff appearances, he averaged 21.9 points.

Loyal to a fault and an excellent franchise ambassador, a frustrated DeRozan wrote on his Instagram page Wednesday morning,

“Be told one thing & the outcome another. Can’t trust em. Ain’t no loyalty in this game. Sell you out quick for a little bit of nothing… Soon you’ll understand… Don’t disturb…”

But as previously noted, Ujiri is ruthless.

On a pure talent basis, Ujiri won this trade by a landslide. A healthy Leonard is arguably the second best player in the NBA with an all-around game that even LeBron James couldn’t claim this early in his career.

Leonard can do it all. From guarding the best player on the other team in today’s game 1-thru-5, to shooting the three (career 38.6 percent), hitting over 53 percent of his two-point shots and hitting a much higher percentage from the mid-range than even the mid-range assassin DeRozan. Leonard can control a game like only the historically elite in the NBA have done.

Of course there’s a downside or the Spurs would never have considered trading Leonard and it’s really hard to “win” a trade with San Antonio, buyer beware.

Aside from the FACT Leonard can opt out of his contract after this season and would rather be in L.A., this petulant 27-year-old sat out most of last season with pain that his team thought he could/should play thru.

Quad (thigh), calf, ankle, shoulder, both hands, right eye, jumper’s knee, a disturbing number of games due to illness and rest have all impacted on Leonard’s availability over his seven seasons in the NBA as he’s missed over 150 games

But the risk is manageable. Green is a very serviceable veteran wing on an expiring contract and if Leonard leaves after a year, Ujiri will have cleared over $30 million off his payroll and escaped the Luxury Tax after just one season. Lowry and Ibaka will then be on expiring deals and the rebuild can begin in earnest. If Leonard is healthy and happy, Ujiri could end up the real NBA Executive of the Year no matter who gets the award. From a GM perspective, it’s a no lose situation.

It was a cold, calculated and ruthless move to trade a popular face-of-the-franchise who wanted to be a Raptor-for-life, but that’s who Ujiri is. If you’re an owner, he’s the executive you want. If you’re a fan of DeRozan, Ujiri just stabbed him in the back and his fans in the heart.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

  Featured image courtesy of Larry Millson

 

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors DeMar DeRozan

Raptors DeMar DeRozan Bumps Stephen Curry To All-NBA Third Team

Last year the Toronto Raptors All-Star DeMar DeRozan was selected to an All-NBA team for the first time in his career. This year he surpassed the Warriors two-time MVP and four-time All-NBA Team ( 2x First Team, 2x Second Team) Stephen Curry by a single point in the voting to bump Curry down a notch to the All-NBA Third Team. (NBA.com)

Votes for the All-NBA Teams are cast by 100 members of the media with five points going towards a first place vote, three points for a second place vote and one-point for a third place vote.

DeRozan and Curry had the same number of first place votes (2) and second place votes (39), however DeRozan received one more third place vote (38 vs 37) to grab the final spot on the All-NBA Second Team with 165 points.

In last year’s voting, DeRozan (62 points) finished just 12 points ahead of the Timberwolves Karl-Anthony Towns (who just missed the cut) to claim the second last spot on the 2016-17 All-NBA Third Team with four Second Team votes and 50 Third Team votes. That was 40 points behind the next closest vote getter Bulls Jimmy Butler and just eight points ahead of the Clippers DeAndre Jordan. Both Butler (81 points) and Towns (54 points) made the All-NBA Third Team this year. Jordan did not receive a vote this time.

Of note, the Raptors All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry had three points in the All-NBA Team voting this year.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

  Featured image courtesy of Larry Millson

 

 

NBA Raptors DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry and Cavaliers LeBron James

Raptors Look Confused After Game Two Loss To The Cavs

Take last night’s box score from the Cavs at Raptors game and only look at the Toronto half. The Raptors must have won? It’s all good, good enough for a victory and the Raptors looked plenty confused after a Game Two loss that wasn’t even close.

Toronto scored 110 points, shot an impressive 54.3 percent from the field, put up 30 three-balls and hit 40 percent of them. They out-rebounded the Cavs by one, got one more assist and only turned the ball over a very respectable 11 times. Their two All-Starts combined for 45 points on 18-33 shooting and sixth-man Fred VanVleet found his offensive touch with 14 points while hitting on 4-7 three-point attempts. Even rookie OG Anunoby was playing some solid defense on LeBron James, not that you’d know it from the King’s stat line.

“We were searching, just trying to find somebody, something to get faster, get more points on the board,” head coach Dwane Casey said. “We were searching for offense, searching for spacing, searching for a lot of things.”

“It’s not over, we just got to take it one game at a time, (and) go from there” DeMar DeRozan forced out after the game.

“We need more effort, way more effort,” Kyle Lowry said searching for answers. “We got to play harder, somehow, someway.”

Toronto went into the break up two points 63-61, but it all fell apart in the second half when they couldn’t stop James who scored 27 of his 43 points over the final two quarters. The Cavs put up 67 second half points on 67.5 percent shooting from the field to go up 18 points on Raptors by the end.

Second year forward Pascal Siakam and Anunoby were in James’ face on nearly every shot he attempted, but he still made 13-19 after the half, mostly of the improbable variety.

“Tonight all the shots over his right shoulder, the step-backs, the fade-a-ways, the one where he hit the moon-ball over his right shoulder and came back with the next possession and hit one over his left shoulder from the free throw line, that was special,” Kevin Love said about James’ performance. “That was something that you get accustomed to, you kind of get used to, but tonight was in that fashion. I don’t know if, it’s my fourth year here, I’d seen that out of him, so it’s special.

“When he went over his right shoulder and then went over his left shoulder, he said when he got the mismatch he would do that. He actually called his shots this morning. That’s just one of the examples I could use about how locked in he was during the entire shoot-a-round knowing what was at stake for us.”

Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue was almost prophetic during the pre-game media availability when hoped for a big scoring night from his team.

“Each team tries to take away what each team does best, so the team who scores 130 this series, they got hot and played really well,” Lue responded to Pro Bball Report’s query. “I don’t see the 130 point games, but if so, I hope it’s us.”

The Cavs were hot in Game Two with the 128-110 victory and the confused Raptors were at a complete loss as to how to stop the barrage.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors DeMar DeRozan

DeMar DeRozan Gets Some MVP Love From The Western Conference

While the Houston Rockets James Harden is the run-away leader for the NBA’s MVP award this season, Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry singled out the Toronto Raptors DeMar DeRozan as another worthy candidate. Gentry acknowledges that despite a great season his own star Anthony Davis isn’t even in this race. As it should be, it’s all about winning.

Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle quotes Gentry as saying,

“In my opinion, (James Harden) is the MVP of the league,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. “It’s not even close, really, what he’s doing with his team and the numbers he’s putting up.”

“He’s been fantastic. He’s been unbelievable,” Gentry said of Davis. “I think the only difference in him not being heavily, heavily in the conversation is obvious we haven’t had the type of season that a Houston has had or a Toronto has had, you know with (DeMar) DeRozan and those guys.

“We just don’t have the wins that those teams have and I think that’s the difference in where he is on the scale of MVP as opposed to Harden or DeRozan.”

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors DeMar DeRozan

DeMar DeRozan Is Player Of The Week For An NBA High Fifth Time

The NBA announced Monday that Toronto Raptors DeMar DeRozan has been selected as Eastern Conference Player of the Week for games played March 5-11. This marks the second week in a row and the fifth time this season DeRozan has received the honor, the most in the East.

In the West, James Harden has also been selected five times this season, most recently back-to-back in February. Not surprisingly, Rockets and Raptors are in first place in their respective conferences. The Trail Blazers Damian Lillard was selected from the West for this past week.

DeRozan averaged a team-high 24.8 points along with 4.3 assists and 4.5 rebounds as the Raptors won an NBA-best four games last week. He shot .453 (34-for-75) from the field and .833 (25-for-30) at the free throw line.

Highlighting DeRozan’s week was a 42-point performance during Toronto’s 121-119 overtime victory on March 7th at Detroit. He made a coast-to-coast dunk at the end of regulation and then drove coast-to-coast to assist on Fred VanVleet’s game-winning basket in overtime.  In a battle of first place teams, DeRozan scored 23 points, including the go-ahead basket vs. Houston on March 9th, snapping the Rockets’ 17-game winning streak.

 

NBA Houston Rockets James Harden and Toronto Raptors DeMar DeRozan

Raptors A Slight Favorite Over The Rockets

In what has to be viewed as the biggest game of the 2017-18 season to-date, the Eastern Conference’s first-place Toronto Raptors face the Western Conference’s first-place Houston Rockets at the Air Canada Centre tonight.

ESPN affiliate FiveThirtyEight.com gives the home court Raptors a slight 0.5 point advantage and  a 52 percent chance of winning.

Toronto (47-17) clinched a playoff spot this week with their sixth win in a row by beating Detroit 121-119 in overtime and holds a two game lead over second place Boston. The Rockets (51-13) hold a slim half game lead over the Warriors thanks to an impressive 17 game winning streak.

The Raptors defeated the Rockets in Houston 129-113 way back in November and a series sweep would send a strong message to the few remaining doubters about just how good the team north of the border is this season.

The Air Canada Centre has been a tough place for opponents to steal a win. The Raptors have the best home record in the NBA at 27-5 where they pile on the points at 112.8 per game and outscore their opponents by a league best 11.9 points.

However, the Rockets are a league best 26-7 on the road this season, scoring 111.8 points and winning easily by a front-running 8.9 points in their opponents’ buildings.

It’s the NBA’s leading scorer and MVP front runner James Harden vs the Eastern Conference Player of the Week DeMar DeRozan and the NBA’s best bench. This should be a good one.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors DeMar DeRozan

Raptors Clutch DeMar DeRozan Looking Like An MVP

The Toronto Raptors had to dig themselves out of a deep first half hole in order to come back to defeat the Pistons in Detroit in an overtime thriller on Wednesday night and it was DeMar DeRozan looking like an MVP who came thru in the clutch at the end of regulation and overtime.

“It was a big play,” teammate Kyle Lowry said postgame about DeRozan’s coast-to-coast drive for a dunk and-one with 4.6 seconds left in regulation. “For him to do that in that situation is just MVPish.”

From the ESPN broadcast: “What a finish. That’s what an All-Star looks like folks.”

It was all DeRozan in the OT boxscore as well as he assisted on on a Pascal Siakam layup and made an 18′ jumpshot and-one as Reggie Bullock fouled him. Then in the dying seconds of a tied game DeRozan drives the length of the court again and with four Pistons collapsing on him at the rim he passes to a wide-open Fred VanVleet who hits the long corner two for the win.

DeRozan scored 42 points on the night for his fourth 40+ point game of the season.

With the win the 47-17 Raptors become the first team in the NBA to clinch a playoff berth this season and return home to face the Western Conference’s first place Houston Rockets on Friday night who are on a 17-game winning streak. Both teams are a conference best 31-8 versus teams in their own conference.

In November Toronto defeated the Rockets in Houston 129-113. DeRozan leading the the Raptors with 27 points while shooting 7-15 from the field and going 13-16 from the charity stripe. James Harden led all-scorers with 38 points on a rough shooting night (8-25) that he made up for by going 19-19 from the free throw line.

DeRozan, leading Toronto to first place in the East, has looked like an MVP in Toronto this season. Harden, however, has led his team to first in the West (51-13), leads the NBA in scoring at 30.9 points per game and has an NBA best four 50+ point games including an NBA season high 60 point night.

Rockets at Raptors on Friday night could be an NBA Finals preview.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 Featured image courtesy of Larry Millson

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors DeMar DeRozan

NBA Refs Really Do Screw Over The Raptors More Than Other Contenders

You can thank the NBA’s Two Minute Reports for confirming what Toronto Raptors fans have known about for years. NBA refs really do screw over the boys from the North more.

Chris Herring of FiveThirtyEight has run the numbers and the Raptors have been victimized by the referees 18 times in the last two minutes with the score within three points this season and that doesn’t count things like Jonas Valanciunas getting hit in the face on that game tying dunk on the Bucks that was later called incidental contact.

Of the teams in contention this season: Toronto (18 blown calls), Boston (17), Golden State (11), Houston (8) and (cough-cough) Cleveland (11), the Raptors are number one at getting screwed by the refs with the game on the line. The only solace might be the Celtics aren’t treated that much better, but being lumped in with the also-rans at the top of the disrespect chart isn’t anything to be happy about.

Apparently there is some justification to DeMar DeRozan’s frustration at not getting calls. He’s number five on the list identifying players who the referees choose to ignore when they’ve been fouled in crunch time.

Yes Toronto isn’t on the top of the bad calls list. That honor deservedly goes to Spencer Dinwiddie and the Nets, but that’s historically consistent. Really bad teams don’t get calls.

However, the Raptors (and even the Celtics) are the best in the East and in third and fourth overall respectively in the league. They deserve better and the four-time All-Star DeRozan shouldn’t have to be among the league leaders in getting no respect from the referees.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors DeMar DeRozan

Consistent Raptors Get DeRozan Player Of The Month Honors

Sometimes it requires taking a deep breath and looking back over the past month to determine what really went down and with yet another consistently good month under their belts, the Toronto Raptors were able to get All-Star DeMar DeRozan NBA Eastern Conference Player of the Month honors for January.

It wasn’t pretty, but the Raptors went 10-5 in January while the first place Celtics stumbled to a 7-5 record and the third place Cavaliers were an embarrassing 6-8. While fourth place Miami also managed to go 10-5, the Heat have no one putting up numbers comparable to DeRozan.

DeRozan averaged a team-high 25.3 points (second in East), 5.9 assists and 3.7 rebounds in 15 games during the month of January and was the Raptors’ leading scorer seven times. He shot .447 (135-302) from the field, .333 (21-for-63) from three-point range and .846 (88-104) at the free throw line. He put up a career-best 52 points on January 1st in an overtime win over Milwaukee.

This was the third time in his career that DeRozan has been named Eastern Conference Player of the Month.

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry

Raptors Inch Closer To First As Celtics Slump

The Raptors made up ground on the front running Celtics without picking up a ball on Tuesday night as Boston extended their slump to four losses in a row by losing to the Lakers 108-107. Toronto also benefited by a Spurs beat down of a Cavs team in disarray 114-102.

After tonight, standings in the East are:

  1. Celtics     34-14     – – –
  2. Raptors   31-14   -1.5
  3. Cavaliers 27-19    -6
  4. Heat          27-20   -6.5

It doesn’t get any easier for the Celtics in the short term. They still have three more games on this Western Conference road trip and will face the Clippers on the back-to-back, then a trip to Golden State and finish off in mile-high Denver.

The Cavs had a team meeting before the game that apparently had no impact on anybody. Losers of 10 of their last 13 games, things are looking bad for Cleveland right about now.

It was already a good night in Toronto before the conclusion of these two games. The Raptors Kyle Lowry was announced as an NBA All-Star for the fourth consecutive season. He will be joining fellow four-time All-Star DeMar DeRozan at Staples Center February 16-18 in the 67th edition of the NBA All-Star Game.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors DeMar DeRozan

Raptors DeMar DeRozan Career Year Comes With A Heavy Heart.

By Frank McLean

Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan is currently in what athletes call “the zone”, he is playing the best basketball of his career and he’s doing it with a heavy heart.

He averaged 25.2 points a game in the month of December which was a main factor for the team going 11-3. And in one of those games he had a then career high 45 pointer in a comeback win in Philadelphia.

He was named the NBA Player of the Week for the first week of the calendar year in 2018 where he averaged 35.7 points a game in three games and erased his career and Raptors franchise mark for points in a game on New Year’s night against Milwaukee by scoring 52.

But it hasn’t been easy for the Raptors All-Star.

DeRozan has left the team twice in the last few weeks to head home to Los Angeles to be with his father who is not doing well with kidney disease.

Heck it doesn’t surprise me that he is going this well with all that is going on his life right now. DeRozan is one of the most focused athletes I have covered in in Toronto in the 30-plus years I have been around Toronto sports. He ranks right up there with Robbie Alomar, the late Roy Halladay and Doug Gilmour for their coolness under pressure no matter what is going on.

Over the past weekend in New York,  Toronto Sun’s Mike Ganter DeRozan as saying,

“I grew up in Compton, California, man, every day was a challenge for me. That’s all I’ve known my whole life. It’s not a surprise for me. It’s not something that’s going to hold me down. I fight through adversity anywhere it comes in my life. It’s nothing new to me.”

“I’m pretty sure everyone in here goes through life situations,” DeRozan added. “You live on this earth, you’re going to have some type of issue that occurs that’s close to you. It’s just a matter of how you handle it, how you go about it. I go about mine like a man, like a professional. I don’t complain. I don’t cry about it. I don’t make excuses. These are things you just got to handle.

“I just go out and play, I don’t think about the run (the last few weeks), I don’t think about nothing. I just love playing basketball. When you get in that zone and you are just going out there playing ball you are able to zone out and be in a different space than you are throughout the rest of the day doing anything else. Basketball is always that realm for me where I can just get in that mindset of feeling free.”

When you are a kid it’s usually your dad that inserts a love of a sport or sports in general and in the case of basketball it was his dad that helped him get the basketball bug.

“He is everything,” DeRozan said. “My dad put the basketball in my hands. My dad took me to the park. My dad pushed me. My dad was my dad. My dad was the reason I wanted to play sports, just like every other kid that looked up to their dad. That’s what he is to me to this day, and what he is to me forever.”

When you talk to Raptors head coach Dwane Casey and you bring up DeRozan he will tell you that nothing he does will amaze you. One of the reasons players love Casey is that in this crazy world that is the NBA family comes first and he tells each and every player that.

  “This is his refuge here and he should use this as a refuge to get away from his issues and problems for those two hours,” Casey said. “But if he has to get away and go home for his family he knows he has the organization’s support to do that.”

DeRozan started week two off right in 2018 as he scored 35 points in Monday’s 114-113 overtime thriller in Brooklyn.

DeRozan is a special talent, no argument there. He is right when he says that we all have to go through something like this with a close family member at one time or another. It’s just life. We go to work every day because we have to. It’s just that when we do, we don’t do it in front of 20-thousand people in an arena and millions more watching you on television.

That’s what makes it more amazing to watch this run DeRozan is currently on.

 

 

DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors DeMar DeRozan

DeMar DeRozan Is NBA East’s Player Of The Week For The 3rd Time

The NBA announced on Monday that DeMar DeRozan has been selected as the Eastern Conference Player of the Week for the third time this season. He has now been the East’s Player of the Week for games played Nov. 13-18, Dec. 18-24 and Jan. 1-7. This marks the eighth time DeRozan has earned the honor during his nine seasons in Toronto.

DeRozan averaged an NBA-high 35.7 points, 6.0 assists and 4.3 rebounds during three games last week. He shot .557 (34-for-61) from the field, .550 (11-for-20) from three-point range and .933 (28-for-30) at the free throw line. DeRozan was the leading scorer in two of Toronto’s three victories this past week.

Highlighting DeRozan’s week was a franchise-record 52-point performance Jan. 1 vs. Milwaukee in a 131-127 overtime win. He became the third player in team history to record a 50-point game, joining Vince Carter (Feb. 27, 2000 vs. Phoenix) and Terrence Ross (Jan. 25, 2014 vs. L.A. Clippers). DeRozan also matched a career-high with 17 field goals, including five three-pointers, against the Bucks and shot a perfect 13-for-13 at the free throw line. Two nights later, DeRozan scored 18 of his game-high 35 points in the third quarter to help Toronto pull away in a 124-115 victory Jan. 3 at Chicago.  He capped off the week by scoring 20 points during Toronto’s 129-110 win Jan. 5 at Milwaukee.

DeRozan, a native of Compton, California, currently ranks seventh in the NBA averaging 25.0 points through 37 games.

The three-time NBA All-Star was selected ninth overall by Toronto in the 2009 NBA Draft and is the franchise’s all-time leader in career points (12,381), field goals made (4,390), free throws (3,322) made and games played (632).

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors DeMar DeRozan

Raptors DeMar DeRozan Has Been A Superstar For 3 Weeks

To notice that a three-time All-Star has elevated his game to another level takes some doing, but for the past three weeks, the Toronto Raptors DeMar DeRozan has been playing like a bona fide superstar.

The East’s second leading scorer in each of the past two seasons, DeRozan was plugging along at 23.7 points per game and the Raptors were a respectable 18-8, then things changed. The Raptors went on a 9-2 run as one of the NBA’s best mid-range players unexpectedly found the range from beyond the arc and in the process set two new personal bests for points in a game and set a new franchise record with 52 points against the (now rival) Bucks.

Now DeRozan’s jump shot was never broken and he wasn’t having a bad year, winning Eastern Conference player of the week on November 20th. It’s just that in his first eight NBA seasons he only took 9.2 percent of his shots from three and he only hit on 28.1 percent of them. Up until mid-December of this year nothing had changed. He was shooting 24.6 percent from three and had gone oh-for (0-15) in the nine immediately prior games.

Then, against Brooklyn, on December 15th, DeRozan hit a three. No big deal, but five nights later in Charlotte he goes 3-4 from deep and on the back-to-back in Philadelphia DeRozan sets a new personal best with 6 three-balls on 9 attempts as he scored a new personal best 45 points.

For the week, DeRozan shot 13-20 from three and averaged 34 points. Not surprisingly, DeRozan was the NBA Eastern Conference player of the week for the second time this season.

After a couple of post-Christmas turkeys in Dallas and OKC, DeRozan hit 5 three-balls twice. Over his last 11 games games DeRozan has been averaging 50.7 percent from the field and 51.9 percent from three-point range.

In the process, Toronto took all four games in home and away sets from the more popular 76ers and Bucks with DeRozan averaging 36.5 points. A quiet in your face ESPN, who rather overtly, would like to see Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo be the story.

DeRozan remains an early favorite to be voted back to the All-Star Game this season, but just representing a much maligned East in NBA’s big mid-season showcase isn’t enough anymore. The player who has increased his scoring by 3+ points in each of the past two seasons wants to show he can do more and his team needs it if they are to start getting respect as the Eastern Conference Finals contender that they were two seasons ago and should be this year again.

The Raptors need a superstar. A player that demands attention from ESPN, TNT, NBA TV and other points south of the border as only that level of player will command the respect of the NBA (and their on court officials) come playoff time.

DeRozan is showing signs his game commands that level of respect. In Toronto’s blow out win over the Bucks in Milwaukee, DeRozan grabbed a long offensive rebound in the corner, turned and fired a three knowing he’d hit nothing but net. He believes his new found three-point range is here to stay and if it is, how do you you stop him now?

The question is, can he keep it up? Not ordinary All-Star level respect, superstar level respect.

Over the next 30 days the Raptors will face the Cavaliers, Warriors, Spurs and Celtics at the Air Canada Centre. By rights he shouldn’t have to, but DeRozan probably has to lead his team to some wins against this group if he’s going to get anything more than polite courtesy (another, yes you’re right, we missed that call at the end of the game that cost you the win) from the NBA and it’s entrenched box score watching media.

(Another 50+ win season and second best scorer in the East isn’t likely to do it.)

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 Featured image courtesy of Larry Millson

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors DeMar DeRozan

Is 52 Points From DeRozan Enough For Next Christmas?

By Frank McLean

Now that the holiday season is over and we all head back to work or school about ten pounds bigger than we weighed before December 24th from all the food we stuffed ourselves with, fans of the Toronto Raptors wondered why weren’t the Raptors included in the five pack of Christmas Day games?

Well fans you are not alone. The Raptors organization was asking that same question before Christmas and again it’s the same old refrain of the team just not getting any respect south of the border.

In a scrum with the media during the home and home series with Philadelphia just before the Christmas break Dwane Casey lamented that he wished they were playing on December 25th.

“I wish we were in that group,” Casey said. “I think we have earned the right to be there. We are one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. I don’t know if it is advertising ? I don’t know what the reason is? Our record shows we deserve to be one of those teams.”

Casey has a point. After their overtime win on New Year’s day over the Milwaukee Bucks where the Raptors improved their overall record to 25-10 and an NBA best 14-1 at home, good for second in the NBA East behind first place Boston Celtics and a game where DeMar DeRozan broke Vince Carter’s record for points in a game by scoring 52, he has a point.

The problem is the Raptors do not resonate with ESPN and TNT the NBA’s national television partners in the United States and as a result they do not resonate with the fans in the USA.

Now the Raptors have been featured in one of the Christmas Day games – once. It was 17-years ago in 2001 when NBC had the national television rights in the US and the Raptors visited Madison Square Garden to take on the New York Knicks.

They Raptors lost 102-94, but that was a moot point, NBC in those days couldn’t get enough of Toronto because they had Vince Carter.

Carter was big in the US and playing in Canada did not make him invisible in the states. He won the 1999 Rookie Of The Year award, he went out and won the slam dunk competition at the 2000 All-Star Game in Oakland and he had his 51-point game, which until Monday was the club record, on an NBC game of the week against Phoenix. People watched the Raptors when they were on national television in the US because of the man Chuck Swirsky called “Air Canada”. Kids in the US wanted Carter’s jersey the same way kids now want LeBron James or Steph Curry’s now.

This current group of Raptors have no one on their team that’s popular as Carter was back in the day. ESPN reported that this year’s Christmas Day games that they aired on their network or ABC had a 39-percent increase over last year’s games.

Would putting Toronto on affect those ratings? Well that’s the impression I get.

Here is the reality, regardless of the numbers DeMar DeRozan is putting up he does not have the publicity in the US that Carter had. Nobody is demanding that ESPN or TNT put the Raptors on regularly because they want to see DeRozan or Kyle Lowry. But they can’t get enough of James or Curry.

Now when you have the LeBron James Cavaliers and Steph Curry’s Warriors playing in three straight NBA Championship’s and the fact they are the two most popular players in the league you know that’s why they always get to play Christmas Day.

But why does no one want to watch DeRozan? In the last three weeks alone he has had two monster offensive games. We mentioned Monday’s club record 52-pointer, but five days before Christmas he put up 45-points in a comeback win in Philadelphia. He is one of the most exciting players to watch right now who is having the best season any Raptor has ever put up.

So what do the Raptors need to do? Short of their PR department putting a gun to ESPN and TNT’s head I don’t know.

The reality is the Raptors need to keep putting pressure on first place Boston for the lead in the East. Get back to the Eastern Conference Finals win it and get to the NBA Championship. Even if they don’t win the title that seems to get you an automatic Christmas Day game since one of them is always a rematch of the previous seasons final.

The only alternative is for DeRozan to keep having monster games so sooner or later ESPN and TNT will have no choice but to feature the Raptors on Christmas Day.

Maybe next year?

 

 

DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors DeMar DeRozan

Winning Raptors Wonder, Where’s The Love

Over the past four seasons your Toronto Raptors have finished in the top three of the Eastern Conference averaging 51 wins per season and in the past two playoff runs only the East’s top team, Cleveland, has managed to knock them out of the postseason. However, it seems the league has chosen not to notice and three-time All-Star DeMar DeRozan is right to wonder, where’s the love?

Despite the team featuring two three-time All-Stars in DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, the ESPN summer forecast had the Raptors only winning 47 games this season and ranked them behind Washington, Milwaukee and Detroit as having a chance at coming out of the East.

Someone in Toronto could be forgiven if they believed ESPN has trouble remembering the NBA has a team in Canada.

It’s not like Toronto has taken a step back from the past two 50+ win seasons either.

Currently the Raptors sport the largest points differential in the East by a big margin. Their +8.7 points per game is 4.0 points better than the first place Celtics and with Boston in a 5-5 slump, Toronto now has one fewer loss than both the Cavs and Celtics. The Raptors are on pace for a third straight 50+ win season and barring injury, 55-60 wins.

It’s not that the Raptors will win all of the five games in hand they have on Boston or even the three games in hand on the Cavs, but if the NBA is going to continue gushing over these two teams, just maybe its past time to remember “We The North” and show Toronto some love.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 Featured image courtesy of Larry Millson

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey

Toronto Raptors Are The Rodney Dangerfield Of The NBA

By Frank McLean

On Tuesday I dropped in on the Toronto Raptors practice just to get an idea of how they were getting ready for Thursday night’s curtain raiser for the 2017-2018 NBA season. And the talk again, like it seems every year for the last four years, is that this team gets no respect. They are the Rodney Dangerfield of the National Basketball Association.

If you are old enough to remember Rodney, he was the comedian who based his stand-up act on him getting no respect from anybody in the world. In the basketball world, this is your Toronto Raptors.

Many of the pundits, and yes those pundits are in the United States, do not think the Raptors have a shot at finishing in the top group in the Eastern Conference again. The worst insult comes from the self-proclaimed “World Wide Leader in Sports” ESPN, who picked the Raptors to finish sixth in the East. This is the same group that listed DeMar DeRozan the 39th best player in the league, but that’s another story for another time.

Looking at the body of the Raptors work for the last four seasons this does not make any sense.

They have made the playoffs four straight seasons, including an appearance in the 2015 conference finals. Two 50 plus win seasons the last two years and an all-star starting backcourt of DeRozan and Kyle Lowry.

New Raptor C.J. Miles he can’t understand it because he has had to play against this team over the last four years.

“How does anybody write a story and not talk about a team that was third in the East last year?” Miles questioned. “It’s a little weird. I didn’t really think about it. From the outside looking in as a guy who’s a fan of the game and watches games and watches everybody play, I looked at them as an elite team and when I walked into the arena they felt like an elite team when you played against them.

“Second or third in the East and now they don’t even say your name, like, how does that happen”?” a flabbergasted Miles added.

Head coach Dwane Casey feels that this should light a little fire under his teams butt.

“It should (put) you off,” Casey said. “There are still 82 games to be played. We should take that as a line of disrespect because we went from tied with Cleveland all the way down to fifth or sixth of wherever they have us. Paper says one thing and all the predictions say one thing, but it’s up to us as a team to go out and compete and show they’re different.”

For DeRozan this no respect thing is just another year at the office.

“Nothing changed,” DeRozan explained. “Same old thing. For us, we’ve got to go out there, worry about ourselves and at the end of the day, it don’t matter what we do, pretty sure they’ll say the same things.”

DeRozan added that since the core of this team has been together for so long the is a comfort level that has led to their success.

“Camaraderie and chemistry is hard to come by. So when you have that sense of comfort, knowing guys as individuals, on and off the court, you have a different comfort zone when you go out there in the big moments, understanding each other,” he added.

“That kind of goes a long way and it actually wins you games in the NBA. You can tell teams that have been together for years, just off the strength of that, they can pull out victories over more talented teams.”

What to expect this year?

Well if this team stays healthy, they should have a good shot for a third straight 50 win season.

This should upset the pundits south of the border who only talk about Cleveland, Golden State, Boston, Houston and maybe San Antonio as the only worthy teams to talk about playing in the NBA Finals.

Let’s face it, ESPN really wants a Cleveland-Golden State Finals part four because according to them, there are only two players in the NBA and they are named James and Curry.

So starting Thursday night let’s see if “WE THE NORTH” can get a little respect that Rodney never got.

 

   

DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors DeMar DeRozan

The Raptors Culture Change Is Happening

The Toronto Raptors were promising culture change after getting unceremoniously booted from the playoffs by a superior Cavs squad at the end of last season and although the messages coming from the management, coaches and players were mixed, that change is happening and it started in training camp at the University of Victoria.

“The league is changing,” head coach Dwane Casey said at the end of last season. “The league is changing and believe me, you’ve got to change or get stuck in the mud. It’s more of a scoring league now. We’ve got to score points. We’ve got to manufacture points and not get down cause the other team scores. We have the players to do it, to put points on the board tit-for-tat.”

That kind of thinking has been a hard sell to a fan base who knows Casey as a defensive coach, but in an intrasquad scrimmage in front of 2700 enthusiast fans at the Centre for Athletics, Recreation and Special Abilities in Victoria, those end of season comments started to ring true. In four 10 minutes quarters, the Raptors in black went 10-25 from three-point range and the Raptors in white went 10-28.

It appears Casey has adopted the current trend in the NBA and it’s going to be a three-point barrage coming out of Toronto this season.

“We have to have the confidence and the gumption to knock down those (three-point) shots,” head coach Dwane Casey said at training camp.

These Raptors will be firing away from deep at every opportunity this year.

After training camp the Raptors headed off to Hawaii for two preseason games against the Clippers and hoisted an almost unbelievable 79 three-balls. The final three preseason contests weren’t any different as it became readily apparent the Raptors were expected to shoot every open shot from deep no matter who had the ball in their hands.

In Toronto’s five preseason games the team averaged the second most three-point attempts per game of any team. The Raptors took over half of their preseason shots from three at 41.6 attempts per game. Only the three-ball happy Rockets shot more and they were putting up over 50 long range hoists per contest.

Everyone was taking threes and the sub-30 percent shooting reflected that, but as Casey has said on numerous occasions, in the regular season the focus will shift to getting the right players to take those shots. In the preseason, however, it was all about setting the right tone or “changing the culture.” Turning down open threes was something Casey didn’t want to see.

And for those bemoaning the overall poor shooting during the preseason, remember, those players trying to make the team or earn their spot in the rotation knew what the focus was. Even non-shooters who won’t be expected to fire away from deep during the regular season got the message.

Once the regular season starts, Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, Norman Powell and C.J. Miles will be carrying the load from three-point range and they are all very capable.

But, Delon Wright showed he had the touch as a rookie and last year in limited minutes Fred VanVleet made it known he can shoot too. These two players got a lot of run during preseason. However, the undrafted rookie forward Alfonzo McKennie quietly shot 45.5 percent from three on 2.2 attempts in under 12 minutes over 5 preseason games and the Raptors rookie OG Anunoby surprised everyone by hitting on three of his last four three-point attempts against the Bulls. Even Pascal Siakam and Lucas Nogueira were putting up threes in preseason. The Raptors will be counting on a couple of these other guys that the league may not have on the radar to come thru as legitimate three-point threats.

Toronto was in the bottom 10 NBA teams in three-point attempts last season (24.3), but it would have taken just one more three-point attempt per quarter to put them in the top 10. At two more three-point attempts a quarter, they bounce all the way into the top five with teams like Cleveland (33.9), Boston (33.4) and Golden State (31.2).

The NBA’s most prolific three-point shooting team, Houston (40.3), resides in three-point universe all of their own, but if Toronto keeps up their preseason pace, they’d join them. Although no one seriously expects Casey to keep letting all those non-three-point shooters to keep firing away from deep once the games start to count.

In fairness, over the past two seasons players like DeMarre Carroll and Patrick Paterson (no longer with the team) admitted they had the green light to shoot and Casey would constantly hint about the negative impact of turning down open shots from three. Inhindsight, that was the culture change the team was looking for and it clears up comments from players like DeMar DeRozan who said the changes wouldn’t be all that great. This is the way Casey wanted the team to play.

Adding a prolific three-point shooter like Miles should help as will turning loose the extremely confident Powell, but what happened in training camp and preseason was needed to set the tone and “change the culture.”

Now the biggest concern will be maintaining the discipline to resist the temptation and comfort of sliding back into the style of play that won this team over 50 games a season during the past two years. As with implementing any change, there will be bumps in the road.

 

  

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors DeMar DeRozan

Quiet Raptors Superstar DeMar DeRozan Talks About Next Season

There has been a lot of reluctance to label the Toronto Raptors three-time All-Star DeMar DeRozan as a superstar in the NBA, but on ESPN in Los Angeles there is no such hesitation, they’d love to have the Compton Kid playing for the Lakers or even the Clippers.

As the second leading scorer in the Eastern Conference for the past two years in a row and the fifth leading scorer overall in the NBA last season, DeRozan doesn’t always get the recognition he deserves.

The always perceived as serious and often quiet DeRozan talks about his career, his goals, playing in Canada, expectations for the Raptors and his charity work in the following interview.

 

Those who have followed DeRozan’s career, particularly at his free agent decision points, know he almost made fun of any media speculating he wanted to leave Toronto. He’s made a point about how special it is to play for a single team, find himself a place in a franchise’s record books and help take a team from the lottery to respectability and hopefully beyond.

“I played the cards I was dealt,” DeRozan said about his path to the NBA. “It worked out perfect for me. I played college here (at USC) for a year and now been in Canada ever since.

“It’s great for me to be able to come back home. Go to Canada. Represent both sides of the fence in two different countries.

“It’s great to have this opportunity to carry a franchise and just show’em I come back every year better.”

DeRozan acknowledges he doesn’t always get the respect his personal and team success should provide and without saying it, likely would provide in a major US market. But, he puts everything back on himself. It’s up to him to come back better every year and let his game speak for itself.

“At times,” DeRozan said about noticing the lack of respect for his game. “But every time I step on that court I am going to leave a reminder why I have the success that I have.

“It’s never been out loud. I’ve never been the one for fame and attention. I go out there and do my job the best way that I can and every season try to come back better and let that speak for itself.”

His personal goal is simple. Learn from last year and come back better next year. It shows in his increased scoring, improved field goal percentage, increased free throw attempts, his rebounding and his assists. He’s not been an All-Star in three of the past four seasons by accident.

“Continue to get better, continue to win, continue to grow as a player, as a leader, keep pushing the envelope. Understand my flaws from the year previously and come back better this year.”

The Raptors have been good the last two seasons. Historically good by their own standards. 56 wins two seasons ago, second place and a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals where they took two games from the eventual NBA champion Cavaliers before bowing out.

Last year started on a 56-win pace until the halfway point and the season was slightly derailed by injuries to DeRozan and Kyle Lowry that lowered the win total to 51 and third place. They ended the year losing to the Cavs again, but this time in the conference semi-finals, swept away in four straight after Lowry was injured and unavailable to play in the team’s final two home games.

However, DeRozan believes his team was just one player away from advancing during the past two seasons.

“It’s hard to say (what we needed),” DeRozan said. “Last couple of years we felt we were a piece a way. Whatever that piece may be.

“We are still trying to figure it out. Going into this season we added and subtracted some things. So we are going to see.

“As long as we stay healthy, anything is possible.”

Every season starts with a fresh clean slate and the quiet DeRozan will be looking to leave his mark yet again on the court where his game will continue to speak for itself.

 

  

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

NBA Golden State Warriors Kevin Durant

Durant Explains Why DeRozan Is The NBA’s Best ISO Player

The Toronto Raptors take a lot of flak locally for their isolation style of play even though they have one of the NBA’s best and most efficient iso scorers in DeMar DeRozan. However, the league’s active leading scorer Kevin Durant recognizes what the Raptors have in the Eastern Conference’s second best points producer and he would like to add some of DeRozan’s moves to his game.

“DeMar DeRozan’s probably got the best footwork I’ve seen in a long, long time,” Durant said on the Bill Simmons Podcast ‘Kevin Durant IV Ask Kevin Anything, Part 2 (Ep. 252)’ at the 38.21 mark.

“I’ve been trying to watch him to see how he does it. He’s just way more athletic than I am first of all, so his body can move a little different, but his pace is amazing. He’s a guy I’ve been studying lately just because of his footwork. Every time I see him I’m just looking at how his body, his footwork. I think that’s where I can get better.”

NBA L.A. Lakers Luol Deng

DeRozan by no means has a strangle hold on the league’s lead for the most frequent use of the iso play and the Raptors aren’t the league leaders in this area either. That honor belongs to the Cleveland Cavaliers who run iso plays almost 12 percent of the time versus 8.5 percent in Toronto and the Cavs scored over 300 more points than the Raptors off those plays last year.

The Cavaliers had two of the top five iso players in the NBA in LeBron James (5.1 possessions, 20.3 percent frequency) and Kyrie Irving (5.1 possessions, 21.4 percent frequency per stats.NBA.com). DeRozan checks in at 4.6 possessions and 17.1 percent frequency. The next Raptor on this list, Kyle Lowry, is way down at 2.3 iso possessions per game.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony had the most iso possessions per game last year.

What may come as a surprise is that of the 15 NBA players with the most iso possessions per game only Irving, DeRozan and Damian Lillard scored over a point per iso possession and only DeRozan had a score frequency over 50 percent.

The reason the Raptors use DeRozan in iso plays as often as they do is because it works and it works because, as Durant volunteered, “DeMar DeRozan’s probably got the best footwork I’ve seen in a long, long time.”

 

  

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

Featured image courtesy of Paul Saini
Instagram:  @fylmm.lifestyle and  @paul_saini

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry

ESPN Flip Flops On Whether Raptors Will Win 50 Games

In perhaps the most obvious face saving move ESPN could make after their Summer Forecast had the Toronto Raptors going 47-35 next season and ending up in a fourth place tie, they produce a panel that flip flops on that doubtful prediction.

Chris Forsberg, ESPN.com: As long as Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are healthy, the Raptors have a chance for 50 or more wins in an underwhelming East.

Chris Herring, FiveThirtyEight.com: unless injuries get in the way like they did last season — when Lowry missed 22 games and DeRozan missed 12 — it’s hard to see how the Raptors don’t approach, or eclipse, the 50-win mark yet again.

How does a team with two returning 3x All-Stars not win 50 games in the East this year?

Put in a call to Captain Obvious, he’s being paged by ESPN.