Jan. 10, 2010, 5:25 PM
He is getting there.
That is the dawning realization that applies to 21-year-old DeMar DeRozan, once a tenderfoot negotiating his first season around the NBA, then a promising if inconsistent sophomore and now a go-to guy.
DeRozan failed to reach double figures in scoring seven times in November. Since then, he has fallen under 10 points just twice.
So far this month, the six-foot-seven DeRozan has averaged 21 points a night. As if to emphasize he could score without being a premier option, DeRozan clocked 28 points as Andrea Bargnani, just four games back from injury, collected 30 in Sunday’s win over Sacramento.
“In the last two weeks he’s been much more aggressive,” Bargnani said. “When I was out, he stepped up to be the first option and I think that helped him.”
Bargnani said he wasn’t the only beneficiary of DeRozan’s quick development.
“It hasn’t just been good for me,” he said. “It’s been good for everybody. When he goes aggressively to the basket, the defence collapses and it creates opportunities for everyone.”
DeRozan sees a worthy partnership.
“When Andrea gets it going, teams have to concentrate on him. That opens up gaps for me to drive to the basket.”
With a season and a half of experience, DeRozan has found his stride. While lining up against LeBron James in his first game was his welcome to the NBA moment, DeRozan’s minutes were limited to 21 minutes or so per contest in his inaugural year. That amount has swollen to an average of 33 minutes this year.
“When you have a year under your belt, it’s easier,” DeRozan said. “I went into my first year not knowing what to expect. Last year, I hit the rookie wall. This year I came back stronger. I can take the physical play inside.”
Head coach Jay Triano says if you want to understand a maturing player look past the stats sheet and pay attention to defence.
“He’s running into fewer screens and that’s a big thing,” Triano said. “We were looking at his last game and he was fighting through one out of two screens.
“The other thing is energy. When you are playing 35-36 minutes a game, you have to look for breaks, but you can’t do it on the defensive end.”
The scoring increase isn’t hard to notice. Last year, DeRozan finished with 8.6 points and 2.9 rebounds. So far this season, 14.8 ppg and 3.4 rebounds a night.
DeRozan said that life as an NBA sophomore beats that of a rookie hands down.
“It really comes down to being a matter of confidence. It’s really fun. I am grateful for everything I get.”