DeRozan showing signs of breaking out

Mike Ganter, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:17 PM ET

 

MIAMI -- The strides the Toronto Raptors have made in Florida are pretty apparent to all.

Even short-handed, they are competing, staying with teams that out-talent them by a huge margin, playing solid defence against all-stars and making them work for everything they get.

But what we are also witnessing is the next stage in the development of the guy the Raptors hope will eventually become one of those all-stars.

DeMar DeRozan has been touted as that player since the Raptors selected him ninth overall two drafts ago. But it's just now that they are expanding the sets they run to include plays designed specifically to get the ball into his hands in late-game situations and let him take advantage of his raw athleticism.

"We have decided that we are going to give him more options and more opportunities late in games to find out whether he can be that type of player," head coach Jay Triano said. "Friday night in Orlando, with 11 points in the fourth quarter, he was big for us."

Saturday night in Miami, he was one of four Raptors who played all 12 minutes in the final quarter and responded with eight points on 3-of-5 shooting and five attempts from the free throw line.

"I think that he is still learning the game, but the one thing you can't teach that he has is the ability to create in the air," Triano said. "You can teach people jab steps and crossovers and how to shoot and how to pass. But when he goes to the basket, he has that innate ability to find a way to create space and that gives him the opportunity to be very special if he continues to learn on the other things."

Two games into his expanded role, DeRozan has responded with 21- and 26-point nights, just the second and third times he has had more than 15 all year. In those two games, he is an efficient 15-for-25 from the field to go with 18 successful free throws in 23 attempts.

The numbers, though, tell only half the story. DeRozan is going at defenders fearlessly these days. He showed absolutely no hesitation breaking down Vince Carter on Friday in Orlando and then Dwyane Wade the following night in Miami.

These past two games are a complete reversal of fortune for DeRozan. In the three games before arriving in Florida, DeRozan had a total of 14 points. Worse still, he had attempted an average of only seven shots in each of those games. He looked lost on the court and discouraged off it.

"I'm just glad my struggles came early," DeRozan said. "I saw what I was doing wrong and I just tried to correct it. That's mainly been my focus. At the end of the day, this team needs me and I definitely want to be a big part of it."

DeRozan says now that a big part of his struggles over that period was foul trouble, but he's figuring that out, too.

"I just wanted to come out and try and redeem myself," DeRozan said. "I think foul trouble is the most frustrating part of the game. Especially when you get two quick ones and have to sit down early. As soon as I got back in (Wednesday against Charlotte), I got my third. It just felt like they kept coming. But you have to deal with it."

Two games does not a season make, but the combination of DeRozan's role expanding in the Raptors offence and an appealing you-can't-stop-me attitude has things looking up for the young second-year player.

Prior to the Miami game, former Raptor Chris Bosh, who knows a thing or two about high expectations in Toronto, took a few minutes to spend some time with DeRozan and left him with these words.

"Just that he's been playing good," Bosh said of the conversation. "I told him it was good to see him. I'm glad that's he's playing good. He's shown a lot of growth. He's very aggressive. If he keeps working, he's going to be a very, very good player."

mike.ganter@sunmedia.ca


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