They are the sole survivors of the Post-Bosh era of the Raptors. Amir Johnson and DeMar DeRozan are the only two guys on the roster that remain from when Bosh last wore a Raptors jersey. It has been a tough few years to be Raptors fans let alone on the front line in the battles on the court.
Johnson has in a sense filled the role that once was Chris Bosh’s maybe not in terms of being the Raptors' best player but clearly it’s most visible and socially active. Bosh once was the twitter darling or the Raptors' fan base but that role now clearly is the title for Amir Johnson.
Amir holds the distinction of being the last ever high school player to be drafted. He continued his education in Detroit on a scholarship to the NBA. Johnson learned a lot from his time there as he reflected on at Media Day on Monday:
“It was huge because it was kind like my college days. I didn’t really know anything; I didn’t know how to play in the NBA coming from high school to the pro level. What do I need to learn? What do I need to do? They kind of took me under their wing and taught me how to play. “
Amir also talked about how he is trying to pass along that knowledge to younger players like Jonas Valanciunas, as well as being a more vocal leader. This is something that DeMar DeRozan talked about as well being more vocal on the floor and off it. DeRozan also talked about being tired of watching friends of his go to the playoffs while he sits on the sidelines. You see it in his eyes and feel it in his voice when he says this. This makes this whole concept of asking players about tanking a silly one. Players on every team always want to win and when they fail to feel that way you have a serious problem.
DeRozan has grown so much from the shy young man that I met back in Ottawa when he and Johnson first joined the Raptors' franchise. They saw Bosh take his talents to Miami and they were left to endure the fallout. DeRozan feels that frustration of enduring through the losing but desperately wants to see the good times.
“I hate to say it feels like we’re the last men standing but we just got to take advantage. Myself and Amir, this is where we want to be. We went through the bad times, we definitely want to be here when the city gets (what it is) deserving, the enjoyment and the good times.”
DeRozan enters into his much talked about contract extension that he received prior to the start of last season from Bryan Colangelo. DeRozan is starting to accept the responsibility that comes with the money. He agreed when asked that he now a young veteran and you can sense he feels ownership of this team.
Much like Bosh had things thrust upon him far too soon with the departure of Vince Carter, the same can be said for DeRozan when he came in just prior to the exit of Bosh. He has grown and developed but not always to the rate that people wanted him too. He has grown up a lot in the 5 years and you see the changes in him. Both in life and on and off the basketball court a great deal has changed.
Regardless of what happens with this Raptors season be it positive or negative, you hope that DeRozan and Johnson can make it to that other side when things do turn for the better for this franchise. You can not deny how both have fought through losing and improved as individual players and people to become the guys that had to lead this franchise through the Post-Bosh era.