DeRozan, Raptors looking for respect

Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan drives to the basket against Celtics guard Ray Allen at TD Garden in...

Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan drives to the basket against Celtics guard Ray Allen at TD Garden in Boston, Mass., Dec. 21, 2011. (ADAM HUNGER/Reuters)

MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:26 PM ET

BOSTON - It was just a moment in yet another loss to the Boston Celtics, made even more insignificant by its pre-season status, but this one might be worth remembering.

Late in the game and with the Raptors down, the Celtics playing their bench guys and the visitors trying to claw back against both the Celts and an energetic crowd, DeMar DeRozan decided to send a little message.

Avery Bradley had just picked DeRozan’s pocket and was half way to the Raptors’ basket at full speed when DeRozan put it in overdrive, caught up to the charging Celtic at mid court and pulled the rookie down.

The illegal takedown was immediately whistled and a murmur of discontent came from the stands.

That murmur grew to all-out outrage when DeRozan nonchalantly stepped over the fallen Bradley’s head like he was yesterday’s garbage.

Asked after the game if the intent was to send a little message right there, DeRozan replied, “Yeah, you know. But’s it’s like I always say. I’m very competitive and when I’m out there I just want to leave it all out there on the line. It’s never anything personal. It’s just when the crowd gets going and we’re out there on that court, a lot of things change. I think everyone on this team is ready to have some respect.”

Respect for the Raptors in today’s NBA has been hard to come by. The losing the past few years, not to mention another tough year that likely awaits, isn’t the kind of thing that earns a team much credibility with their opponents.

No one would admit it but Sunday when Kevin Garnett openly taunted Andrea Bargnani, that too was disrespect.

But DeRozan wasn’t just talking about having other teams respect the Raptors for what they do on the court.

He, like everyone in the league has heard the not-so-quiet whispers that the Raptors are a soft team and he doesn’t like it.

Normally stepping over an opponent like DeRozan did is something the Raptors have done to them. Yes, Kevin Garnett, we’re back to you, but it’s not just KG.

It wasn’t that long ago that Paul Pierce took the ball and Chris Bosh to the basket at the TD Garden winding up with Bosh on his back and Pierce standing over him following an impressive dunk. Pierce openly taunted the Raptors’ best player at that time, pausing over him to deliver the ‘Take that’ message. Sadly only head coach Jay Triano and assistant Alex English even got up off the bench to protest the over-the-top showmanship. Everyone else on the bench remained glued to their seats.

Triano was hot in the aftermath and while he didn’t say it that night you knew he would have liked it had one of, any of, his players gone out there and physically removed Pierce from overtop of the fallen Raptor.

DeRozan never wants to see that happen again and if it means stepping outside his own comfort zone and doing something like he did with Bradley, so be it.

“That’s all it is,” DeRozan said. “We have to gain back that respect. We have to play tough and hold each other (accountable) on this team.

I think guys are passionate and they just want to go out and show we’re not a soft team. Everything that people say about us, that we don’t get respect from the other teams, the refs or whatnot. We just want to go out there and show everyone we can play.”

Playing is part of it. Showing teams you won’t be anyone’s doormat is another part of it.

Collectively the Raptors already go into every game, or most games, knowing not to expect any respect from the refs. Other teams’ star players will get the benefit of the doubt on calls. The Raps’ lesser stars like DeRozan will not.

DeRozan knows only winning and time will cure that, but having the respect of the opponent is something the Raps can control.

“We can’t do anything about the refs,” DeRozan said. “We can do something about the teams and have teams respect us and knowing when they play the Raptors they have to bring their A-game because they know we’re going to go out there and lay it all out.”

Here’s hoping DeRozan is not alone on this. Enduring losses, even with a light at the end of the tunnel, is never enjoyable. It’s got to be downright embarrassing when the opposition feels free to take the kind of liberties with the Raptors that they have over the years.

mike.ganter@sunmedia.ca


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