It’s easy to forget the time when DeMar DeRozan was merely a quiet, unassuming teen-aged rookie in Toronto, trying to find his way with the Raptors. Now, as one of the best players in the NBA, on one of the league’s best teams, DeRozan has grown into the role of both leader and ambassador. These facts are now fortunately easy to remember.
This Monday morning, DeRozan appeared on ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski’s podcast — the cleverly titled Woj Pod — to discuss many things that have happened to him over the years. DeRozan gets into his All-Star experience and memories, the long run he’s had with Toronto, his work ethic, growing up in Compton, how he felt when he tweeted “I got us”, and more.
You can listen to the whole thing here (or jump below to two of my favourite tidbits from the 45 minute discussion):
The first, let’s say, bombshell comes while Woj and DeRozan discuss Kyle Lowry’s almost-trade to the Knicks. We remember those dark times well: the Raptors traded Rudy Gay, and were looking set on a tank and rebuild course of action. As DeRozan admits, in that moment he too thought he’d make a trade request of his own. A harsh truth.
But in reality: it’s a fair personal conclusion to arrive at. This was DeRozan at 24, staring down the potential of yet another reboot and lost season (or perhaps a lost prime). It’s wild to consider now how things played out. The Knicks got cold feet, the Raptors got good (DeRozan and Lowry gave themselves 20 games to turn things around — and they did!), and the rest is delightful history.
Which brings us to my second favourite part of the pod: when DeRozan admits that he and Lowry barely talked their first season together. That’s incredible!
Look, the 2012-13 Raptors were bad, and Lowry was (rightfully) pissed off about, a) still coming off the bench behind Jose Calderon (good guy tho), and b) feeling like he was probably not long for Toronto (Steve Nash rumours already rumbling). It’s understandable that Lowry maybe wouldn’t want to get too close to any of his teammates in that situation. Why make the effort? That DeRozan is (or perhaps was) a quieter guy who mostly kept to himself probably didn’t help.
Much like the trade that wasn’t, and the Raptors resurgence that emerged from whole cloth, the DeRozan-Lowry friendship almost didn’t happen either, and feels just as unlikely. I want to make some grander point here about chance, or about relationships, or about opportunity, but I really am struck dumb by the chain of events.
Remarkably through the hardships of his early career, DeRozan found himself in Toronto, built himself and his team into the best version of themselves, and also found a lifelong friend along the way. We should all be so fortunate.