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News » Raptors feed off DeRozan's high energy

Raptors feed off DeRozan's high energy

Raptors feed off DeRozan's high energy Excuse Toronto's Basketball fans for their rare moment of raise-the-rafters ecstasy Wednesday night. No league championship was won. No division-winning banner was raised.

But DeMar DeRozan, Toronto's rookie swingman, did jump and hang and throw down an actual, highlight-reel-worthy slam dunk at a key moment in a 99-89 win over the Chicago Bulls.

And given how long it's been since the Air Canada Centre witnessed that kind of baseline-commanding statement from a high-flyer on the rise - given the Raptors' recent employment of rosters favouring jump shooters to the exclusion of high jumpers - DeRozan might as well have brought home a world freaking title.

DeRozan's jam - a third-quarter beauty that helped fuel a game-changing rally before a crowd of 16,310 - is exactly what was promised on the June night when the Raptors selected the kid from USC with the ninth overall pick in the NBA draft. On that occasion, general manager Bryan Colangelo, no great manager of expectations, immediately invoked comparisons to Vince Carter, only the greatest talent to play for the local hoopsters. And DeRozan didn't exactly downplay the Carter reference, Twittering about the return of Air Canada to the ACC.

Eight games into his NBA career, anybody with eyes can see DeRozan is no Carter. But he's no stiff, either. And after Wednesday night's performance - nine points and nine rebounds all told - he even attracted enough attention to be the subject of veteran trash talk.

"Every time he dunks, he misses. People telling me he's a high flyer and all that," Jarrett Jack, the Raptors veteran, said of DeRozan.

Jack was chuckling as he spoke, and he directed his next jab directly at DeRozan, who was applying some post-game deodorant a few lockers down.

"What's that? Your second dunk of the season?" Jack razzed.

Actually, it was DeRozan's third, and definitely his best. And it wasn't merely a trivial bit of entertainment. In a game that saw the Raptors dig themselves a hole with a decrepit first-half defensive effort, DeRozan's third-quarter jam was a buzz-building beauty that keyed a third-quarter rally back to respectability. But his impact wasn't measured simply in poster-worthy moments.

In that game-changing frame, wherein the Raptors trailed by as many as 11 points but entered the fourth quarter down just one, DeRozan pulled down a team-high seven rebounds and added a blocked shot. And yes, he also missed a dunk - fitting, perhaps, given the ugly nature of Toronto's win.

"I thought DeMar in the third quarter just really gave us a lift. He chased balls. He rebounded. He was aggressive," said Jay Triano, the Raptors coach. "I thought he had maybe one of his best games as a pro."

His teammates weren't quite as effusive. Chris Bosh, the Raptors all-star who had 28 points and 11 rebounds, pointed out that the best defensive play of the game involved DeRozan getting his shot blocked by former USC teammate Taj Gibson. Bosh called DeRozan's dunk "a nice one."

Said DeRozan of the dunk: "It made me feel young again. ... Chris has been questioning my hops. I had to show him I still could jump."

He certainly can, but continually repeating Wednesday's all-around effort will be the rookie's real leap. (Ditto for the Raptors' second-half defence, which only proved they're capable when they care). But if the franchise is in dire need of success in the here and now, understand DeRozan will demand your patience.

"He's only 19 years old," said Jack, and DeRozan raised an objection from a few lockers down.

"I'm 20, Dog," said the kid who left teenagehood back in August.

"I knew he was going to say that," said Jack, laughing. "He's only 20 years old, so he's still very young. He still has a lot of learning, a lot of growing. He's mature for his age. He listens. And that's all you can ask from somebody in his position."

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Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: November 12, 2009


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