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jeffb 10-08-2013 03:01 PM

SI: Derozan determined to help turn Raps around

BOSTON -- The eras have changed every few seasons in Toronto, and DeMar DeRozan is the latest mainstay intent on ending it. He wants to be focusing on his playoff debut rather than worry about another sequence of rebuilding.

"It's all on us at the end of the day," he said Monday before the Raptors opened their preseason with a 97-89 victory against the Celtics. "It's all on what we do as a team. If we go out there, do what we're supposed to do, it's no complaints nowhere."

MAHONEY: Grading the Raptors' offseason

The first game of the regular season is three weeks away and the clock is already ticking. DeRozan and his teammates are looking forward to the first half of the year knowing that they can't afford to be a second-half team. Coach Dwane Casey is in the final year of his contract. So is point guard Kyle Lowry, and small forward Rudy Gay will have an option to become a free agent. A bad start may help persuade new Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri to make trades sooner than later.

Every franchise is approaching the season with optimism of some kind, but perhaps no team is faced with a more precarious view than Toronto. The Raptors have missed the playoffs the last five years, they haven't had a winning season since 2006-07, they've reached the second round only one time and they have never won 50 games in their 18 seasons as an NBA franchise.

Ujiri was hired away from Denver in May with a mandate to make changes. Apart from trading former No. 1 pick Andrea Bargnani to the Knicks, the new boss has been wary of upending the roster too soon.

"We could have done that from the beginning of the summer if we were just trying to get rid of people," said Ujiri, who was aware of the incentives created by his presence. "You challenge people and you challenge players, and then you see what you get out of it."

GOLLIVER: Surveying position battles in camps

There is too much talent in Toronto to encourage a sell-off for future draft picks: The Raptors look more like a team headed for the playoffs than the lottery. Gay, 27, won a gold medal with the United States at the last World Cup, in 2010. Lowry is 27, power forward Amir Johnson is 26 and DeRozan is 24. Highly regarded center Jonas Valanciunas, 21, is in his second year, as is 22-year-old shooting guard Terrence Ross, the eighth pick in 2012. Tyler Hansbrough will make practices more competitive, and Steve Novak will improve the three-point shooting off the bench.

Casey is a well-respected coach who was the lead defensive assistant for the Mavericks' championship team of 2010-11. His team overcame a 4-19 start last year to go 30-29 the rest of the way while incorporating Gay after his arrival from Memphis in a Jan. 31 trade.

"It's how you bounce back from adversity -- and we did that," he said. "That's a huge lesson for us this year."

The Raptors face an early challenge in 2013-14. Six of their first nine games are on the road, and the opening-month opponents include Indiana, Houston, Memphis, Chicago, Brooklyn and two games with two-time defending champion Miami.

DeRozan knew this season was going to be pivotal to his career, which was why he put himself through his toughest summer of workouts.

"It means everything to me, especially going into my fifth year and I haven't played in the playoffs," he said. "I just really took my conditioning and skill work to another level. I really worked my butt off in every aspect. Sometimes I'd go two or three times a day, just so I can get comfortable at everything and not really feel any weakness."

MAHONEY: Potential trade targets in 2013-14

DeRozan, a 6-foot-7 shooting guard, averaged career bests of 18.1 points and 2.5 assists last year. He has always been one of the league's most explosive slashers, but he understands that his team's failure to make the playoffs has led to focus on his issues as a perimeter shooter, the $9.5 million he'll be making each of the next four seasons and his ability to complement the 6-9 Gay, another wing scorer.

"He takes a hell of a lot of pressure off me and vice versa," DeRozan said of Gay. "A lot of people get into the analytic stuff -- we don't pay no attention to that because we know how much we can help this team. As long as we play on the defensive end, we don't have to worry about scoring -- nothing, none of that -- because we can score the ball at will."

The best Raptors -- Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter and Chris Bosh -- have been unwilling to commit to the franchise over the years. DeRozan has not yet proved to be of their class, but he wants to earn their reputation while remaining in Toronto.

"I want to be that guy who stuck through the tough times and made it when the sun came out," he said. "Once we get to winning, everything else in the past will be forgotten. It's easier to want to be somewhere else and play on a good team, but this is where I want to be and overcome all of that."

DeMar DeRozan determined to lead Toronto Raptors' turnaround - NBA - Ian Thomsen - SI.com

pzabby 10-08-2013 03:24 PM

Derozans a great dude

0nekhmer 10-08-2013 04:03 PM

I wonder if he'll feel the same once operation tank starts

carp 10-08-2013 04:32 PM

Sounds like a good story. He should have worked as hard the last few offseasons too though.

Hopefully JV can turn this team around.

box92 10-08-2013 04:35 PM

I still believe he can be great, and a solid second/third option on a good team.

Kriz 10-08-2013 06:54 PM

Hopefully he can fulfill his role. Other wise he'll just get traded lol

Deez 10-08-2013 06:55 PM


Originally Posted by 0nekhmer (Post 820763)
I wonder if he'll feel the same once operation tank starts

I doubt they will be tanking because of 2016. You can tank, pick up a stud and still stink for 3 more years. I guess the buzz that would create is O.K. but TL might choke someone if they are not contending in 2016.
So I guess it is whether Demar can hold out that long and as well as whether he is kept here that long.

I would expect the best pieces from this year to be added to an improved core next year and further improved the following year.

Don't you know Drake is going to lure all the best players here? ;)

Aamir 10-08-2013 09:49 PM


Originally Posted by box1992 (Post 820771)
I still believe he can be great, and a solid second/third option on a good team.

Cuz you can tell he wants it so bad. He's just a slow learner imo. Which you can live with I guess, but only for so long....

Does help he has a great attitude. Never would've thought he would fall in love with this team and city when we drafted him. Great stuff.

Ataf 10-08-2013 10:30 PM

Opps wrong thread

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