It was a big night for Demar DeRozan last night in a loss to the Spurs. We caught up with Demar pre-game and got his thoughts on how things have been going on of late for the team and himself. Here is our brief chat prior to last night's game. At the end it cuts out a little but all you missed was "a little"
Demar does seem to have started to turn a corner in his play. I would like to say it is talking with us pre-game that does the trick, but it is probably a lot more to do with some of the things he said. The fact the Raptors have been able to practice more and learn more. The chance to get in the gym and work on things at night, something that Demar has been noted for doing often. It seems crazy that a team is still learning stuff at this point, as we approach the All-Star Break. However, this is far from a normal season. Opportunities to practice have been slim. While Demar, as everyone is will appreciate the nice break on the way in the schedule, don't think it means he believes he is tired. Dwane Casey was asked post game if he left Demar on the bench too long in the 4th quarter last night, he responded no, and suggested it might have helped Demar out. DeRozan has a bit of a different take on things.
DeRozan from post game scrum in response to if he was tired from the back to back- " I am only 22, I can play all day. It can wear on you a little bit, especially playing in two tough games like we did. You just have to come out mentally ready."
As for if he wanted back in the game earlier after his big 3rd quarter?
"Yeah I did. Try to just make that last push. we didn't have nothing to lose and I just wanted to leave it all out there on the floor."
Casey has said on more than one occasion about his desire to see Demar pack on some muscle in the off-season. Something that would likely help if the team decides to move him to playing at the small forward position more. Even if that is not the case, it will still benefit him in his ability to take a pounding and encourage him to attack the basket more and be able to finish off plays with contact.
While opinions on Demar have changed for a lot of people, he clearly or maybe we should say definitely hasn't. He still wants to be a go to guy for this team and grow into being a star player for this team. The fact he has started to show signs of improvement, at a time when the Raptors have had their best opportunity to both practice as a team and work on their game as individuals makes logical sense. It might be a sign that Demar is still on track to be the same player most thought he was heading into this season.
In terms of evaluating the progress of young players this season, it is hard to do in some ways and you feel like it's difficult to be completely fair to them. Nothing about this season has been normal. In talking with Demar at the start of this season, he saw it as just another season like his previous two. After experiencing this less than normal NBA season and off-season prior, I am not sure if his opinion has changed. However, this season has been different and it has offered a lot of challenges that if Demar becomes the success he wants to be, he may look back on it as a big part of the learning and growing he talked about.
There will be no Slam Dunk Contest this season for Demar and I am pretty sure given the grind this season has been to this point he is cool with that. I continue to have faith that he can become the player he wants to be and the Raptors need him to be, as they look to grow into a winning basketball team. It just might be a tougher journey, and a little longer one than people might have hoped. However, for someone that has come as far as he has, from the place he comes from, it won't dissuade him from working hard to get there. It took a lot of work just to get to where he is at now.