By Frank McLean
Everyone in Toronto can take a deep breath and relax, DeMar DeRozan made it as a reserve for the Eastern Conference when the NBA All-Star game hits the 416 on Valentine’s Day.
The official announcement came Thursday night just an hour before the Raptors hit the floor at the ACC where they knocked of the New York Knicks for their brand new franchise record 10th win in a row.
DeRozan joins his teammate Kyle Lowry on the All Star squad giving the Raptors two players in the game for only the second time in the 21 year history of the franchise. Vince Carter and Antonio Davis were the other duo to play in the same game.
The reserves are voted by the 30 head coaches in the NBA and there is not one coach in the league who does not like this guy. His play speaks for itself. DeRozan is averaging 23 points a game, which is a new career high, but what everyone admires about him is his work ethic and even after being in the league for seven years he is still trying to get better which is the definition of an all-star player.
This past Sunday when the Los Angeles Clippers were in town to face the Raptors their coach Doc Rivers was glowing about DeRozan.
“He put in the work, though. Being in L.A., a lot of those guys come back to L.A. and work out in our facility and you see him get there early. I love seeing the young guys, they get there first, they get there early, they actually work on their games and then they play in the pickup games afterwards,” Rivers said. “I don’t know him well, but I’m happy for him, because I love guys who work their way into being a great player.”
“He knew that eventually he had to improve his shot and more importantly, improve the distance of his shot,” Rivers went on to say. “I always thought he had a pretty good in-between game, and now he can stretch the floor. Once he gets that down, then, it’s going to be hard to guard him.”
As you can see he has the respect of the other coaches in the league.
Meanwhile his own boss Dwane Casey was as expected just giddy talking about the DeRozan selection like he was his own son not just one of his players.
“He’s a great example of a few guys have bailed,” Casey said without mentioning the names of Raptors stars of the past who left Toronto for what they thought were greener pastures.
(You know who they are… Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady and Chris Bosh.)
“He stuck with it, he’s a loyal young man. He loves the city, loves the organization, loves his teammates. I think this is a testament to that and a reward for that. And most of all a reward for how hard he’s worked, those hot afternoons in Compton,” Casey said.
A very humble DeRozan had this to say after the Knicks game.
“You always think about the tough times, losing records, getting criticized. People saying I can’t do this, I can’t do that,” DeRozan said. “All of the negativity you have to deal with. Definitely, you look back on it and think about it. You really look at it and understand it as hard work. It’s cliché, I know.
“Nothing was ever given to me. I had to work for every single thing I accomplished, individually and team-wise. It was rough, but I think that’s made me into the person and player I am today.”
DeMar DeRozan is an all-star player, but better still, he is an all-star person and there is not one person involved in the NBA that will argue against his inclusion in the All-Star Game.
Kind of fitting that it’s being played on Valentine’s Day.
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.