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.