Maybe DeMar DeRozan hasn't had the best rookie campaign statistically, but Franchise argues that his performance in the dunk contest(s) this weekend could be more important to the franchise than anything he does on the court this season...
Late last night, as I was channel surfing, I caught a piece the Score did recently on the Toronto Raptors, and in particular, a chat they had with coach Jay Triano. The interview was set up more as a montage of the Raps' season to date, with clips and pieces of their interview with Jay interwoven between various high (and low) lights of the season.
Most of the focus was on that early December game against the Washington Wizards, the one preceeded by a closed-door meeting that at this point, does indeed look like the "TSN Turning Point" of the season. However there was one other piece that really stood out to me, and that was when Triano got into why Bosh would want to stay in Toronto.
In the interview, Triano stated that the idea of playing with Andrea Bargnani, Jarrett Jack, DeMar DeRozan, Hedo Turkoglu and Jose Calderon, those five as a core, is hopefully enticement enough for him to stick around considering it's a very young and exciting group.
I'm not sure about young considering Hedo, but with the Raptors' recent play, it's hard to argue that there isn't a good deal of upside in that group plus Bosh.
However it was DeMar DeRozan's name that stood out to me the most.
From Triano's inclusion of DeRozan in the key six, it left little doubt in my mind that when Bryan Colangelo drafted the kid from Compton, he, and his braintrust, fully expected DeRozan to emerge as one of the top wings in this league at some point. DeRozan is a great kid who works very hard to improve, and with his highlight reel dunks, it's not hard to see the tremendous upside and possibilites for the Bosh and the Raptors down the road at guard.
Right now though, that's all they are, possibilities.
DeRozan has been solid on average as a starter, a big feat considering he's a rookie with very little collegiate experience, but statistically it's been shown over and over that at present, Toronto is a better team with someone like Marco Belinelli or Sonny Weems manning the 2 spot.
But as many of our readers have argued, that's not what this starting experiment is all about; this is about getting meaningful minutes for the rook and as a bonus right now, doing so on a winning club that's challenging for a top playoff spot.
Whether DeRozan should be starting or not is an argument for another day.
If DeRozan does win the contest it could really put the Raps back on the NBA map. With the team seemingly on the right track and creating some buzz around town, a win in the "big event" might finally cast this team back into the lime-light...Perhaps more importantly it also gives CB4 one less reason to leave. If the Raps can suddenly become a fixture for nationally televised games in the US then exposure is something Bosh doesn't need to worry about.
As Raptors' fans, we all know the impact Vince's performance in the Slam dunk contest had on both the Raptors and the city of Toronto. Not only did he put Toronto on the map officially, he also reinvigorated interest in the contest, which, prior to Carter, had recently showcased such terrible dunks as these:
Suddenly, with Vince and T-Mac both flying around on the highlight reels, Toronto didn't look like such a Siberia to play in and for the first time in franchise history, Raptors' management was able to retain and attract key free agents.
This brings us to Mr. Bosh.
Yesterday, when speaking to the media in Dallas pre-All-Star weekend, Bosh noted that he's not going to simply be content to play second-fiddle to another star next year, and that maybe Toronto is where he needs to be after all.
Encouraging words for Raptors' fans for sure, and more than anything, if you read the piece, I think the bottom line is that CB4 hasn't made up his mind concerning his fate with the Dinos and won't until this season is all over.
It's hard though not to think that a riveting performance by DeRozan this weekend wouldn't go a long ways in determining that fate.
We all remember the electricity that ran through Toronto after Vince's monumental performance (arguably the greatest slam dunk performance ever outside of the classic Jordan-Nique face-offs), now imagine that combined with a team that is already making waves thanks to their recent play! The impact of DeMar's showing could be even bigger than post Vince's win! Remember, Carter WAS the marquee player Toronto was trying to hold onto from then on. In this case, it's Bosh, and so a big night from DeRozan could be a major tipping point in terms of keeping CB4 around.
Already Toronto has done almost everything they can to put Bosh in a situation he wants to remain with.
The team is winning, he's the franchise figure, players like Bargnani are developping around him, management has shown a willingness to do whatever they can to get him help, and oh...right...they can pay him a lot more than any other club.
So wouldn't a big performance by DeMar just add another piece to the defense's case?
Perhaps the one thing, although Raptors' fans would never admit it, that Toronto doesn't have going for itself right now (outside of the lame tax and weather topics that are always brought up), is a "cool" image. The Heat, the Lakers, the Suns, the Mavs, the Magic...all of these clubs would rank highly I'm sure if you asked the casual NBA fan about teams they view as "must see." This is further supported by the fact that these clubs dominate TNT and ESPN's schedules each season.
But there was a time when Toronto started to make some head-way into this space as well, and it was thanks to Vince Carter. As much as Bosh is one of the top players in the league, he doesn't play the style of game that draws in the average sports' fan.
There's no question in my mind that a big weekend from DD would go a long ways towards re-injecting some of that "cool" into the Raptors, and it's hard to discount that factor when it comes to this summer's impending negotiations.
Suddenly instead of "why would you want to stay in Toronto?" it could easily become "why would you want to leave Toronto?, you guys have DeRozan!" I don't want to go off on a tangent too much here, but the impact could be similar to what's happening in hip-hop right now thanks to the resurgence of Kardinal and the explosion of Drake; suddenly it's cool to namedrop TO.
And let's step beyond Bosh and the city for a second, what about DeRozan himself? Perhaps DD's performance gives him that extra boost of confidence that suddenly has the rook taking his game to the next level in the final third of the season, further propelling the Raptors up the Eastern Conference standings.
I'm getting ahead of myself I know but I think this is a topic that really has been under-discussed by the media; this All-Star game could very well be one fans look back on 10 years from now as a very pivotal moment in franchise history.
It was 10 years ago tomorrow essentially that Vince put Toronto and the Raptors on the NBA Map.
I'm hoping for a repeat perfomance starting tonight.