By Frank McLean
The MVP for the Toronto Raptors in December while starters Jonas Valanciunas and DeMarre Carroll have been recovering from early season injuries has been guard DeMar DeRozan.
In the seven years he has been in Toronto the term “Gym Rat’ has been used more than once to describe him. He is such a rat that late at night DeRozan has been known to take the short walk from his condo to the Air Canada Centre and head up to the Raptors third floor practice facility to work on his shooting. It’s been working.
During the month of December, he averaged 25 points on 47.1 percent shooting from the field to go with 4.9 rebounds and 4.3 assists. In four 30-point games, he scored 34 points against Denver on December 3rd and 34 more against Washington on December 30th at home. In between these dates, DeRozan put up 31 points against Charlotte and 30 points in Miami on the road. The Raptors starting shooting guard has been carrying the scoring load for Toronto in a 9-6 month.
“I’m going to say I just feel more comfortable than I have felt the past couple of years,” DeRozan said after the game in Miami. “I’m evolving into the player I’ve always wanted to be, from me being an All-Star to being with the USA team. Last year unfortunately I got hurt, but I felt I was on the right path to continue to grow.
“That’s my whole object every time I step out there on the court. Figure out a way to be better. I really take pride in that. People always find a way to put a ceiling on other people and I always hate that. Sometimes you have to struggle to realize what you have to do.”
In the Eastern Conference, no one scored more than DeRozan’s 375 points for the month and only James Harden (430 points) scored more in the NBA.
Struggle was something that DeRozan did when he entered the NBA. In his first few seasons in the NBA he struggled to get better. When the previous Raptors management decided to extend DeRozan’s contract after his rookie deal expired many questioned that he would turn into an NBA star. It’s the same argument many said when the team re-upped Terrance Ross this past summer.
DeRozan is a native of the Los Angeles district of Compton and of course like all kids of his generation in Los Angeles he grew up idolizing the Lakers and some guy named Kobe Bryant.
When the Lakers were in town a few weeks ago a couple of friends of mine in the Lakers broadcasting department joked with me saying, “What are the Raptors going to do when DeRozan signs as free agent and comes home to LA?”
It was one of those comments you hear that are a joke, but when you think about it, maybe it wasn’t?
DeRozan won’t win the MVP of the league this year. That Curry kid in the San Francisco Bay area has it locked up. But for the month of December and for the season so far DeMar DeRozan is the MVP for the Raptors and he is the main reason they are still above .500.
Veteran 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.