LOS ANGELES — Had a few more bounces gone his way, a few more attempts gone in late for his team, DeMar DeRozan could have been the first Raptors player ever named all-star MVP.
“You just want to break my heart some more, huh?” DeRozan said during his media availability when someone said he would have had a real shot at the honour. Had Team Stephen prevailed, Damian Lillard, DeRozan and Joel Embiid had the best cases for the MVP nod.
For Compton native DeMar DeRozan, All-Star game in LA was dream come true
Still, DeRozan said this of the game itself: “On a scale of one to 10, it was definitely a hundred.”
Kyle Lowry was impressed at how well DeRozan played in his hometown and had no issues with DeRozan’s late turnover, when he drove down the lane, but passed when the opposition converged on him.
He recently celebrated his 300th win with the franchise and is seen by many as as a top contender for the NBAs coach of the year. And this weekend, Casey will lead Team LeBron at the NBA all-star game in Los Angeles.
“I think LeBron was timing it up (for a block), Giannis (Antetokounmpo) was right there, I think he made a good play, just a little bit hard,” Lowry said.
This is the first year the league has changed its all-star game format, dropping the traditional eastern versus western conference match in favour of mixing players from both conferences onto both teams.
“DeMar’s my guy, I don’t care what he does, he can do no wrong.”
“I think guys were tired of hearing the talk about the all-star format was trash. We wanted as competitors and as professionals to make sure that we played extremely hard,” Lowry said.
Another watershed moment in Raptors history
James loves to get tongues wagging, which is likely why he went on and on post-game about how great Los Angeles is. He knows people think he might sign with the Lakers in the summer.
No city has hosted more of these events than L.A. and the list of MVPs is fittingly star-studded: Bill Russell, Jerry West, Julius Erving, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant and now James.
The home stretch awaits
“It’s built for stars. It’s built for entertainment. It’s built for cameras and bright lights, and it’s a great place for (all-star weekend),” James said.
The relationship between players and referees has been rocky, to say the least, this season, which is why the player’s association and the officials met over the weekend to discuss how to improve things moving forward.
Game 7 against the Miami Heat stands out, personally. Kyle Lowry leading the way as the Raptors erased the memory of that devastating loss in Philadelphia when Vince Carters shot bounced off the rim. It took 15 years (ironic) to get that monkey off their back. We remember the controversy of the graduation, the shot, and the aftermath. More than anything, we remember the shot.
Lou Williams, who is on the way to another sixth man of the year award, was happy to hear about the meeting.
Torontos team was hoping to force a Game 7, but the NBAs king had apparently seen enough. The Raptors had pushed LeBron James to bring his A game, and just like that, the series was over. It was a 26-point loss, but it didnt take away from the fans appreciation for what Canadas team had done over the three series and regular season before it.
“It’s definitely been different this year. Definitely a rough year with player-referee relationships, but … hopefully we got some things hashed out so we can have a better environment the second half of the season,” Williams said.
Thankfully, the front office and players who have their fingerprints all over this era of Raptors basketball could care less about what ifs. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan have stayed and backed Dwane Casey and his coaching staff even through a change as dramatic as weve seen on the offensive end this season.
DeMar DeRozans Evolution Has Revolutionized Raptors Outlook
“Communication is key. Just the way we speak to each other can be a lot better.”
The player’s and referee’s associations released a joint statement, saying “the meeting marks a successful first step in generating empathy and building a better relationship.”
It was interesting that James and Kyrie Irving, the long-time teammates turned frenemies, hooked up for so many crucial plays down the stretch and that Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook also reunited on Team LeBron.
Westbrook converted a tough layup off a find from Durant for one important late bucket and they exchanged an emphatic high-five afterward, as James did with Irving at several points.
“Anytime you’re able to get back and play with one of your old teammates, and as great as he is, we all know that, the flashiness, the ball handling, the ability to shoot, it was just great to get back on the floor with him,” James said.
“At the end of the day, we are all competitors, but it’s still a real tight brotherhood,” Lowry said.
Minnesota’s Jimmy Butler didn’t play at all and said afterward that he was tired and needed a rest. That spurred on an avalanche of speculation that the famous L.A. nightlife got to him … Team Stephen head coach Mike D’Antoni joked that the Golden State players kept grabbing his clipboard. Steve Kerr let his players do the coaching in a game last week … Lowry on who his kids’ favourite players are: “Me” … Anthony Davis wore the jersey of his injured New Orleans teammate, Cousins, for part of the game, in his honour … Barenaked Ladies did the Canadian anthem and the best we can say about it was it was in harmony. Fergie did the American anthem and we hope you bet on the over, she took her time. Draymond Green’s reaction was priceless and Twitter was not kind to the sultry singer … DeRozan hit a corner three-pointer early on, fitting considering his three-point success this season. His ailing father, Frank was able to make it to the game, making the night even more special for the four-time all-star, since there was considerable doubt whether he would be able to be there … If the movie and TV stars or the NBA royalty wasn’t enough, at one point, the crowd welcomed on the court Julius Erving, Shaquille O’Neal, Elgin Baylor, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jerry West, Magic Johnson and Bill Russell. Seated conveniently close to the tunnel, we also saw Beyonce, Odell Beckham Jr., Snoop Dogg, Floyd Mayweather (with jewellery so blingy it looked like it was shooting out laser beams), Jack Nicholson, Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock and many more big names … Something to watch as we head into the second half of the season and the bad teams start to jockey for position in a top-heavy, quality draft: It’s the first time since 1983-84 that every team is playing at least .300 basketball. Expect that to change as some squads pack it in and plan for the future.
DeMar DeRozan eased his way into the interview room Sunday night wearing a black baseball cap backwards, his black backpack slung over his shoulder and his feelings still raw from losing.
He had found some joy in playing in the All-Star game in his backyard at Staples Center, a kid from Compton High and USC showing kids from his neighborhood what is possible.