DeMar DeRozan is no longer young.
He has always been an old soul, practically from the moment the Raptors designed him as a mature 19 year old at the University of Southern California. It wouldn't be happier to have his career in a cold place far away to start from home.
Nobody really believed him, but DeRozan included everyone the hard way, with year after year steadfast commitment to the Raptors and the city.
It was the early revelation of DeRozan's relapse character when he showed up as someone who says what he means, what he says, and is not afraid to show himself out there and be a little different.
Toronto loves him for it, although the Raptors believed they had to trade him in for the San Antonio Spurs to win an NBA title. DeRozan was the first returning Raptor to receive video homages in successive seasons.
"I don't know anyone who gets two tributes in a row," he said. "Find someone who does this (for). No, it's awesome. The people who have worked here, with whom I have a relationship and who have seen me since childhood, it is amazing to get so much recognition again and again. It never gets old. "
But time flies by. DeRozan is suddenly an 11-year-old veteran who is sensitive to his birthdays.
"Don't age me," he said when I mistakenly referred to him as 31 instead of 30.
The calendar is relevant because the Spurs star is returning to Toronto as a visitor for the second time. It is not surprising when we will see him again at the Raptors or elsewhere.
Not only his out-of-court sincerity – there was never a question, guys like DeRozan are rare – but also his playing on the court.
He arrived in Toronto on Sunday and played one of the best basketballs in his career – which means that he's been one of only nine players since the 2013/14 season, with an average of at least 20 points, four rebounds and four assists past seven seasons and counting. It's an elite company – five of the others are former NBA MVPs.
DeRozan was back on his old stomping ground, scoring 25 points, eight rebounds, four assists and two steals as he shot 7-of-12 off the ground in Comer-from-Behind 105-104. In the second half, he had 22 points after revealing an aggressive catch pattern that the Raptors had applied to him early on. And no, he didn't try three hands.
The former Raptor has seared since the Spurs decided to join the modern NBA and release their launch center, LaMarcus Aldridge, as a three-point shooting threat. He took six last night and has already trebled three times this year than in any other season of his career. DeRozan was practically unstoppable as there was more room to operate in the arc than ever before.
DeRozan set a Spurs franchise record by being the first to shoot 10 games in a row with at least 20 points to 50 percent and to extend this Sunday evening.
Its efficiency was over the same range as that of it with an average of 27.2 points and 5.7 points at 64 percent of the shooting. And – of course – he did it by mocking the onslaught of the NBA to rate the three-point shot over almost everything else. He scored an average of 10 two-point field goals while doubling his commitment not to make three.
The NBA's three-point quota has skyrocketed since its first all-star season in 2013/14, when the league average was 21.7 points per game. So far, the teams have played an average of 33.7 games this season. However, DeRozan's three-point rate fell over the same period, from a career high of 2.7 in 13-14 to a career high of 0.2 this year.
The entire NBA is zigzagging, and DeRozan chose Zack.
DeRozan says his evolutionary regression was only what makes him his best.
“I always try to analyze myself as best as possible when things are going well and especially when things are going badly. I'm just always trying to analyze myself and find out what I could have done to get better, ”he said before being greeted with two extended standing ovations by the crowd that watched him for nine seasons – than he was the game was previously featured and then during the first quarter Scoreboard paid tribute to the Raptors all-time leading scorer.
"And I'm just a basketball fan. I always watch games where I can steal a train, wonder why a certain guy can get the free-throw line or get a certain shot a certain number of times, or whatever. It's such little things I'm trying to figure out. "
He is a craftsman. You can see it in the footwork that allows him to always be in balance as he turns and turns, and in his development as a passer-by, like the timely rope that he threw Marco Belinelli into the triple that gave the Spurs a 103 -101 lead, 28 seconds ahead, when the Spurs used a 17-0 run in the fourth quarter to claim the unlikely victory. Raptor fans can see it in Pascal Siakam's thriving game, whose mix of twists and fakes looks terribly familiar.
"He stole all of my counters," DeRozan said before praising his old teammate.
“Pascal was a person who worked his ass off every day. I can confirm that, I saw it, ”said DeRozan. “He went to the G-League, played extremely hard as he wanted. He started most of his rookie year for us and he was completely raw and to see where he is now he will definitely be an all-star. It's an honor to see such a guy grow – to be included in the league and to be one of the best players in his position. "
However, DeRozan was even able to successfully defend his protege against a few important possessions in the course of the game when Siakam showed a little rust in his first return after eleven game absences.
"I was just trying to throw something at him to make it difficult for him and to pray," was DeRozan's collapse of his defensive approach.
DeRozan remained in character against the Raptors, kicking, turning and deceiving his way to simple buckets and 14 trips to the free-throw line. He also reached in time for a devastating break-in into the Raptors' Chris Boucher, who came out of nowhere and brought the crowd to life in the Scotiabank Arena. As a bonus, it was DeRozan who forced a Siakam miss in the final seconds, pulled a foul, and iced the line win by 9.3 seconds.
Sign up for Raptors newsletter
Get the best of our Raptors reporting and exclusive offers straight to your inbox!
It was proof that DeRozan can still bring it. He even has a technician, which we are not sure of. Maybe immerse yourself too much? When he landed on Boucher, he stared at him for a split second as he unraveled. Maybe it was.
“I played against [Boucher] in the gym this summer and didn't know who he was. [but] He blocked every shot, so when I saw him down there I said to myself, I wanted to go the basket, be aggressive and at least try to get fouled, and I did and dipped it. "
Was it the weakest technician in your career?
"Yes. Yes [it was]”he said. "I'm surprised. I'll call the players' association tonight."
Although DeRozan is still able to put younger rivals on the rim, the NBA is not waiting for anyone – even for someone as long-lived as DeRozan, who in the age of load management still plays 79 games, seasons like clockwork.
He has to make decisions as a potential free agent. He has a $ 27.7 million player option that he can pick up from the Spurs for next season. He must also consider whether San Antonio will commit him to a four-year extension that could be worth up to $ 150 million, but the first word is that the Spurs are reluctant to contact DeRozan until the age of 35 to tie.
Will DeRozan hit the market to be "the man" somewhere? Or will he try to tie himself to a championship candidate who is looking for his goal and game results but who plays a less important (read: cheaper) role?
It will be fascinating to see and it opens up the possibility that "Peak" DeRozan – his time as top scorer in a playoff team – could come to an end.
When and when that happens, the reality is that there can never be another like him. A franchise winger without a threesome? It's like making a living by hitting horseshoes on an anvil. That time is over.
He says younger players asked him about his trade secrets during the games while young guns paid tribute.
"I understand that, but I think" Damn, am I that old? "He said." But there were a few young people who asked me in the middle of the game or watching a movie whether they could train with me for the first time in the summer. And I said, "Sure, get in touch with me." But it's cool to be recognized here like this … that's the beauty of sport, that I can inspire the younger generation, and I just hope that I'm one of them am guys who can inspire every guy to master [my style] or even be better. "
But it's hard to imagine someone getting so involved with DeRozan's determination to operate within the three-point line, find wrinkles that press on the rim, lift the defenders off their feet, or just jump up in traffic, like he did.
It is an art that is lost through the relentless mathematics of the three-point shot.
The league has fallen into a row.
This has never been DeRozan's thing. He was his own man in basketball and everything.
But here in Toronto we knew that from the beginning and saw it again on Sunday night.