DeRozan Joins Lowry As Eastern Conference All-Star
Holly MacKenzie - Raptors.com
When DeMar DeRozan was named an All-Star in 2014, he crossed one item off his career to-do list, then added another. Never wanting to become complacent, DeRozan has repeatedly stated his desire to be an enduring player in this league. Being an All-Star was a proud moment, but he didn’t want it to be a one-time occurrence. After missing 21 games last season due to a groin injury, DeRozan’s hopes of being a repeat All-Star were dashed, but being away from the game as he rehabbed only made him want to be among the NBA’s elite even more.
“I remember that night, sitting in the MRI till 3:30 in the morning just thinking about every single thing,” DeRozan said. “But I just stuck to [what I knew]. All I knew is working hard. You know, just taking it one day at a time.”
DeRozan’s reward for that hard work is a spot on the Eastern Conference All-Star team. Averaging a career-high 23 points and 4.1 assists per game, DeRozan has tweaked his shot selection, increased his trips to the free throw line, and is playing the best basketball of his career. After learning he'd be making his second All-Star appearance, DeRozan took a moment to reflect on all that’s changed since being drafted by the Raptors in 2009, including the circumstances that surrounded the All-Star reserves announcement.
The news came an hour before Toronto’s franchise record 10th straight victory. The game was nationally televised across the U.S. in Thursday night's prized TNT time-slot. The win moved the Raptors to 31-15 on the season, just two games behind the Cleveland Cavaliers for top spot in the East. The All-Star nod meant that he would join teammate and friend Kyle Lowry representing the Raptors when All-Star weekend tips off in Toronto, marking the first time an All-Star game will be played outside of the U.S.
"It’s big,” DeRozan said. “It’s big. I took pride in putting on the Toronto Raptors jersey since I’ve been here. And now to have the All-Star game here, to have two guys represented in it, it doesn’t get any bigger than that. It’s definitely a blessing and I’ve got to credit the coaching staff and my teammates for helping me and Kyle get to this point.”
When DeRozan trains, he is motivated by the things people said he couldn’t or wouldn’t achieve. Teammate Terrence Ross shared that he has learned how to play through adversity, work hard and stay true to the game from playing alongside him. Being named an All-Star wasn’t DeRozan’s primary goal this season — that comes later, after the regular season — but it’s proof that the early mornings and late nights training in the summer are worth it.
“I always think about it, especially when I see those old Toronto Raptors commercials,” DeRozan said. “You always think about the tough times, losing records, getting criticized. People saying I can’t do this, I can’t do that. I had [to be] this type of player. All of the negativity you have to deal with. You look back on it and think about it. You really look at it and understand hard work is not a cliche at all.
“Words can’t explain it,” DeRozan continued. “Especially with the rough time I had last year, going down with the injury. Everything is a process. Nothing was ever given to me. I had to work for every single thing I accomplished, individually and team wise. It was rough but I think that’s made me into the person and player I am today.”
Thursday night’s victory came against an undermanned Knicks team with Carmelo Anthony, Jose Calderon and rookie Kristaps Porzingis all in street clothes. Calderon, who was with DeRozan for the first half of his career, made his way down a familiar hallway pre-game to find his former teammate and congratulate him on the All-Star nod.
“He worked so hard,” Calderon said. “When you see guys working hard and they’re successful after that? They deserve that. He’s been working on everything. Maybe the shooting wasn’t his greatest ability when he got into the league. He worked on that. [He worked on] a little bit of everything.”
During Thursday morning’s shootaround, DeRozan called Calderon “one of my favourite teammates of all-time” and credited the point guard for “a lot of my knowledge, a lot of my success and understanding of the game of basketball.”
“He always was able to listen,” Calderon said. “Whatever you said, it felt like, ‘Okay he’s really listening.’ He really knows what you’re saying, he really wants to know what you’re saying, and wants to do whatever it is to be the best in the league. He did that. I’m so happy for him. It’s great to see him and Kyle and all of those guys. It’s almost like we grew up here together.”
While DeRozan and Lowry have each been All-Stars once before (DeRozan in 2014, Lowry in 2015) both have acknowledged that the opportunity to share the experience will be special.
“I’m glad it’s done and official and me and him will be representing our city, the country, our organization and we’ll be doing it together,” Lowry said. “It’s been a long road for both of us and he’s been here longer than me. From where I’m coming from, this is really good to be able to share it with someone you actually care about and want to see be successful.”