Since the Toronto Raptors traded Rudy Gay away late last year, players and fans alike have started paying attention to the Canadian team thanks to one player in particular: DeMar DeRozan. It’s not that the shooting guard hasn’t always been there, pushing and motivating his teammates—it’s just that it’s easy to fly under the radar when you’re always putting in extra effort like he does, studying game tape at home and working out at the gym in his spare time. Maybe the humble 24-year-old with a rep for loyalty won’t say it, but his diligence is paying off.
DeRozan played a career game against the Dallas Mavericks last week, clinching a 93-85 home win and scoring a personal high of 40 points. The player has also helped carry his team forward through a hot streak that’s turning heads. In the process, the purist and born competitor may have foiled what some say was an attempt by Raptors GM Masai Ujiri to move the team down in the standings. Instead, the team is currently placed fourth in the East, making playoffs a possibility.
Now, the rest of the NBA is starting to see what Raptors fans have known all along—that DeMar’s an all-star. He received 131,228 fan votes in the ballots, and it’s easy to conclude that he’ll have even more support when reserves are picked later this week. We caught up with DeRozan the night of his career game for a quick courtside chat about the hard work he had to put in to reach his prime.
DeMar DeRozan: Without a doubt. It’s clearly evident, year in and year out.
DD: I’d have to say my third year. My game really started slowing down because at that point—playing a lot of minutes and starting for a season—you’ve seen almost every situation, almost every defensive coverage, and you know how to use that to your advantage. That’s when they use the term “slowing down,” that’s what that means. Understanding rotations, you’re understanding where the ball needs to go, how to get to the basket.
DD: Yeah, I’m not the type of guy who’d be putting up video, and tape all my summer workouts to show people how I’m working, you know? I’m the type to—I’m going to go out on the court, you know, you can see it, my game’s getting better, I’ve been working on all aspects of my game, and not just my game, my body as well.
DD: A lot, you know. First of all, it’s good seeing her being a mother to my daughter, it definitely means a lot, and you know that’s big just to see what women have to go through raising their child. At the same time, she’s a basketball fanatic, and sometimes I don’t want to hear it but she definitely pushes me, telling me the things other people probably wouldn’t.
DD: I’m not anybody else, man. You know, I do everything off loyalty. Fans love and fight for me, I will do the same thing for them. That’s just my mentality, that’s how I’ve always been. I don’t care who left, who came, who went. I don’t care about what people say about ‘this team would be a better fit.’ Whatever. I’m here. This is the place where I want to be, and [I want to] show people that’s why I work so hard.
DD: It means a lot, and not just for myself, [but] to go out there and represent the country of Canada. Now, that’s definitely big. The last [Raptors] All-Star was Chris [Bosh]. I haven’t played with him in—you know, it’s been about five years. So it definitely means a lot.
BnR: Thank you for your time, we appreciate it! Congratulations on your career-high game.