DeMar DeRozan Becoming a Focal Point
Starting his third season with the Raptors after being drafted ninth overall in 2009, 22-year-old shooting guard DeMar DeRozan is being asked to grow up fast and become one of the focal points in Toronto.
“The team will definitely go off how Andrea and I are playing,” DeRozan told HOOPSWORLD. “We have to take that responsibility and take on that challenge every night.”
Last year DeRozan started in all 82 games and doubled his rookie scoring average with 17.2 points per game, finishing second behind Andrea Bargnani. This year, the team’s one-two offensive punch continues to be Bargnani and DeRozan, but a lot more is being expected from both of them than just scoring.
“Look at it like a challenge,” continued DeRozan. “You’ve got to be up for the challenge and be willing to take whatever consequences that comes with it and be accountable for everything you do. I think that’s part of being a pro and at the same time just understanding your role, and once you understand, I think it becomes much easier.
“I’m getting more and more comfortable after every game, after every practice.”
In his first two seasons, DeRozan struggled on defense and couldn’t find his three-point shot. These deficiencies offset some of the benefits of his rapidly developing mid-range and slashing game, but things appear to be quickly changing this year. New Head coach Dwane Casey established an early emphasis on discipline and defense, and the team acquired some savvy veterans to help the process.
“I think that’s beneficial for us, especially with young players, to have a coach like that,” said DeRozan. “It’s definitely been paying off. I think everybody’s buying into everything he’s pushing, on the defensive end especially.
“We’ve got a lot of new guys, a lot more veteran experience, a couple of older guys that have definitely helped us younger guys progress a little bit faster, especially with a new defense, new offense and a new coaching staff.
“If we have to learn something in two weeks, we’re going to have to learn it because we understood with the lockout we might not play a whole season, so whatever happens we have to be prepared for it, I think everybody was.”
Already DeRozan has shown confidence in his formerly missing three-point shot, and after just five games, he has been hitting from range at a 62.5 percent clip and has as many threes as in all of last season. Steals, rebounds, and assists continue to run at last year’s pace and DeRozan looks more comfortable on the defensive end of the floor.
“Understand that every night may not be your night, but I can still contribute on the defensive end. There’s always a way you can contribute.”
Part of becoming a focal point is developing a belief in your own success and that of your team, and DeRozan knows what success is for himself and the Raptors.
“I just want to be successful, to become a better player, a better pro, a better person overall and at the same time help my team win and represent this organization the best that I can.
“Our team can definitely be good. I think we’ve got a great chance. We’re all still gelling together and learning a lot of new things and I think it’s nothing but up for us, and that’s where we’re going because we’re definitely working hard every day, even in practice or if it’s a shoot around to become a better team. I think we’re going to be alright.”
For DeRozan, this optimism has a source and it has been a common theme since the end of last season. Coach Casey has everyone from the locker room to the front office believing things are about to get a lot better for the Raptors.
“Because he definitely wouldn’t tell us anything wrong,” exclaimed DeRozan. “He knows what it takes to win. He won a championship, played with a great veteran team and is sharing all that experience with us. It can’t do anything but pay off.”
DeRozan still has a lot of room to develop, but the Raptors investment in starting him 147 times over the past two seasons and his own strong personal work ethic have prepared him for the role of becoming a focal point under Coach Casey’s guidance. By the time this season is over, DeRozan will have taken another huge step towards fulfilling the role envisioned for him when he was drafted by the Raptors.