SACRAMENTO, Calif. – He had something stuffed in the left nostril to stop a bloody nose. He got a frustration technical in the third quarter. And his team not only lost, again, but also lost to an opponent that came in Wednesday night shooting 43.7 percent from the field (23rd in the league) and then hit the Raptors for 46.3 percent along with 107 points.
These are not easy times for DeMar DeRozan.
But there are clear signs of development in his game, and that’s something, because Toronto needs anything to grab onto in a season already tail-spinning toward the lottery. And because DeRozan has just become an important part of whatever future exists there.
His contract made it so. He got a four-year rookie extension in October, reportedly worth between $38 million to $42 million — one of only seven players from the 2009 draft class to get a new deal before the Oct. 31 deadline. He got it despite never averaging more than 17.2 points or 3.8 rebounds per game in his career. That was the Raptors’ gamble, that DeRozan would take the next step.
Now, the return on the investment has made it so. DeRozan’s early play has not only been one of the few bright spots in the 4-15 false start, but has been an affirmation for the front office at the very time management needs one.
Once a great athlete needing to grow as a basketball player, DeRozan has done as much this season. He is shooting better from the perimeter, rather than trying to outphysical every defender to the hole. He has become a better rebounder, at five per game.
“Confidence and experience,” Toronto coach Dwane Casey said. “He did a great job this summer working on his body, getting physically stronger. With that came a level of confidence that took him to where he’s playing now. He has a tremendous amount of confidence playing in the post. Not only that, but just his overall game is a confident game. I think that is just through experience and getting his body physically ready for an NBA season.”
The next step, now that defenses will be coming at him harder than ever, is to handle the new pressure, for DoRozan to improve as a passer as opponents work to get the ball out of his hands. But this is a good start at 18.2 points a game after the 107-100 loss to the Kings at Sleep Train Arena on Wednesday, one of the few early positives for the Raptors. This is one of his good times.