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Join Date: Dec 2007
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Daily Raptor Dish - 19.02.11
DeRozan learning from master
Heavy heart for Blake Griffin
Ajax native Justin Darlington first dunked a basketball at age 16.
Raptors star DeMar DeRozan did it in the sixth grade.
Yet Darlington, like DeRozan is at the NBA’s all-star weekend in Los Angeles competing for slam dunk glory.
Six years after his first jam, Darlington has become one of the most well-known high-flyers around, earning the nickname ‘Jus Fly’ and from SLAM magazine, the title of ‘best dunker in the world.’
While DeRozan will compete at the big show on Saturday against the likes of Blake Griffin, Darlington took on three opponents on Friday night with $10,000 U.S. on the line at the second annual Sprite Slam Dunk Showdown.
Darlington, a former star high jumper at McGill, is shocked with how far dunking has taken him.
“I would have never guessed, because to me it was a little bit of a habit,” Darlington said over the line from L.A.
Now Darlington travels to all kinds of corners of the globe — he’s particularly big in China.
At times he finds himself in gyms with high-profile NBA players.
Instead of getting advice, the confident Darlington tends to dispense it.
“They usually don’t give advice cause they’re already in awe of what I’m doing,” he said.
Last week, Darlington helped give DeRozan some ideas to try on Saturday.
“I gave him a few dunks that I’ve done. He tried a few of them out and one of them he got down on his first try,” Darlington said.
“I don’t see why he shouldn’t win.”
NBA’s rising stars ready to soar in dunk contest
DeMar DeRozan, last year’s runner-up, plans to unveil a dunking repertoire that honours his native Los Angeles.
In keeping with that theme, he’s enlisted Raptors native and fellow L.A. native Amir Johnson.
“There’s no place like home and it’s going to be a yellow brick road for me,’’ DeRozan said.
DeRozan wasn’t about to give a preview, but he did reveal that a few of the dunks he plans on showcasing are unique.
“There’s a couple no one has seen before,’’ he said.
Unlike last year in Dallas, DeRozan won’t be overwhelmed by the occasion of all-star weekend.
“I know what to expect,’’ he said. “I kept looking around last year at the celebrities in the crowd and I was nervous.
“This time, I’m prepared.”
To minimize any distractions that come along with being at home, DeRozan said he’s limited ticket requests to eight family members.
Whatever DeRozan has planned, it’ll take a Vince Carter-esque performance for the second-year Raptors guard to topple Griffin.
“I remember sitting on the floor at home watching each of Vince’s dunks,’’ DeRozan recalled the night Vinsanity was ushered in a decade ago in Oakland.
“From that moment, I wanted to dunk.”
Among Carter’s eye-popping dunks was a 360-degree windmill that brought the house down.
“I can do it,’’ DeRozan said.
He may even try to duplicate it Saturday night.
Shy Raptor ‘got swagger’ for dunk contest
For DeRozan, determining what to do is almost as much fun as doing it.
“You just use your imagination,” he said. “From there you go in the gym and see if you can try it, if you can do it, get your footsteps together. That’s where it starts from, your imagination and just going out there to try it.”
And he’s found nothing too crazy so far that he can’t pull it off.
“Nah, not really. If I put my mind to a dunk, I can definitely get it down.”
DeRozan finished second to Robinson in last year’s dunk contest in Dallas and admitted he was ill-prepared for the event. He said he’s now more of a showman — which will be a step away from character for the soft-spoken Raptor — and he knows how to energize what’s expected to be a sellout crowd at the Staples Center.
“I was nervous my first time, I didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “This time around, I know what to do, how to get the crowd more involved and have more fun with it.
“I didn’t practice last year that was the thing. I tried to wing it last year, if anything. This year I practiced, I know what dunks I’m going to do going in ahead of time, I was really thinking on the go last year.
“This time I know what I’m going to do, I know when I’m going to it, what order of dunks I’m going to do.”
And with success has come responsibility. DeRozan has emerged as a near-everyday speaker with the media for the Raptors. He is getting familiar with the cameras. That does not mean the Californian is growing especially comfortable with the attention, though.
“He don’t even leave his condo half of the time. Half of the time, I have to drag him out,” Sonny Weems, DeRozan’s best friend on the Raptors, said. “He’s one of those guys who doesn’t care about who knows him, who notices him. He doesn’t really care about that. That’s one thing you can really admire about him: He doesn’t care about the spotlight. He has a great opportunity to be the next Chris Bosh on the team, but he doesn’t act like it. Not in a bad way — that’s just not his personality.”
So long as DeRozan opens up just a bit, the humility could help.
“Crowds don’t really like [jerks]. If you’re a good guy, or laugh or act like a clown, people like to see that,” said Justin (Jusfly) Darlington, a 22-year-old Torontonian who participated in Friday night’s amateur dunk contest. He was also working with DeRozan leading up to the event. “It’s entertainment to them.
“Some people might like the cocky guy or the jerk. But if you’re a nice guy, you’ll always be loved by the people.”
As even Dawkins acknowledged, DeRozan goes into the event as an underdog. Los Angeles Clippers rookie forward Blake Griffin, who may be the most explosive in-game dunker since Carter, is the favourite. Washington’s JaVale McGee and Oklahoma City’s Serge Ibaka, both big men, will also compete.
Griffin is the man who literally threw the ball in the basket while nearly leaping over New York big man Timofey Mozgov.
“Blake is like a wild card with me,” Darlington said. “I’ve seen what he can do in games. But I don’t know what he’ll do in a contest. With him, I’m completely blank.”
DeRozan is trying to meet the challenge. After his team beat Griffin’s Clippers last Sunday, the Raptor said he has decided on which four dunks he would use — each competitor gets two dunks in the first round, with the two highest scorers getting another two in the final. DeRozan said he took two dunks from the mind of Dwight Howard, the Orlando big man who donned a Superman cape in the contest a few years back.
He seems to be embracing the pageantry of the evening.
“I’m taking suggestions from everybody,” DeRozan said. “Whoever has the coolest ideas, using their imagination for something that will really get the crowd going, I’ll take it into consideration.”
“He’s the next franchise [face] of the Toronto Raptors,” Weems added.