DeRozan still showing love to "crazy" Raptors fans ahead of chance to end Toronto's season

Apr 10 2023, 9:21 pm

The Toronto Raptors will be taking on a familiar foe when they host the Chicago Bulls this coming Wednesday night in a do-or-die NBA play-in game.

Having played in 340 home regular season contests and 27 home playoff games for the Raptors over his career, DeMar DeRozan knows how loud Scotiabank Arena could get come Wednesday night.

“The atmosphere is going to feel like it’s an Eastern Conference finals game in a Play-In game. So it’s definitely going to be crazy. Driving to the arena, walking through the arena, you’re definitely going to feel it. That’s the beauty of that place, those fans. And any competitor would want to be a part of that,” DeRozan told reporters on Sunday night.

DeRozan ranks 17th in league scoring at 24.5 points per game, just below teammate Zach LaVine at 24.8 points per game (15th) and just above Toronto’s Pascal Siakam, who puts up 24.2 points per game (19th). In two seasons in Chicago, he’s been named to the Eastern Conference team twice.

But against Toronto, DeRozan has averaged just 14.0 points in three games against the Raptors this season.

“I’m going to deal with it. I know how to deal with it now. But playing against Nick [Nurse] and playing against those guys, they try to do everything in their power to make sure I don’t beat them,” DeRozan added.

The winner of Wednesday’s game advances to another do-or-die play-in contest, facing off against the loser of Tuesday’s Miami Heat-Atlanta Hawks matchup. But whatever happens in the coming days, DeRozan doesn’t think it’ll have any impact on his legacy among Raptors fans.

“I would never be a villain in Toronto,” he added.

Texting an old friend in Raptors forward O.G. Anunoby this week, there wasn’t any time for trash talk.

“He said that he’s gonna try his best. I’m going to try my best,” Anunoby said at Monday’s practice.

DeRozan’s tenure in Toronto was cut short by the highest-profile trade in franchise history, where he was packaged to San Antonio along with Jakob Poeltl and a series of draft picks in exchange for Kawhi Leonard back in the summer of 2018. While Toronto went on to win the NBA title the following season, things didn’t go quite as well for DeRozan following the trade, on and off the court.

“It was one of the toughest times ever,” DeRozan said to Draymond Green about the trade in a 2021 interview. “I didn’t really have no guidance with this sh*t… I wasn’t going to talk to nobody about it. I mean, I just wanted to take it all in and figure it out.”

During his time with the Raptors, DeRozan averaged 19.7 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists in 675 games across nine seasons while making four NBA All-Star teams.

“When it happened, it hit me hard,” DeRozan added in 2021. “You know, I mean like a lot of people always say like I was bitter, I was this… nah… like it f*cked me up because people don’t know how much I put into it, the conversations I had with players, coaches, the long nights, long days playing through all types of sh*t.”

And whether or not DeRozan enters his villain era, tip-off is set for 7 pm ET on Wednesday night.

Adam LaskarisAdam Laskaris

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