DeMar's got a big fan; and so does Marco
Something of a slowish day yesterday as they basked in the glow. A far cry from some day-after-game sessions, that’s for sure.
But a dearth of truly entertaining nuggets so you’ll have to do with these:
The other morning, a few of us were standing around talking to Kobe Bryant after the Laker shootaround (including his Close Personal Friend Cabbie, whose Kobe stuff is, like all Cabral’s stuff, excellent) and the conversation gets to DeMar DeRozan.
Kobe lauds the kid for his work ethic and desire to improve and when I asked him if that’s a trait most youngsters lack, he was quick to agree.
“I think it’s the times that we live in. Players at an early age get spoiled too much, everything gets given to them … I think DeMar – (O.J.) Mayo is another one that I knew for a while -- those couple of guys are some of the few that actually work and enjoy playing the game.”
And I guess that’s one of the most impressive things about DeRozan, his willingness to put the work in to get better.
There’s no disputing his jump shot has improved since the first of the season – it’s still a bit wonky and he doesn’t have three-point range yet but it’s smoother – and his ball-handling skills are better. He spends a lot of time in the gym working, he spends a lot of time watching video with assistant coaches and he does take instruction to heart.
And what’s interesting to me is that 45 games into the season, he really hasn’t had a long lull. No collisions with the rookie “wall” it appears and I think that goes to how Jay’s handled him.
Consistent, but not overwhelming minutes, no wearing him out in the first 30 games and the fact he’s now played more games at a higher level this year than he’s ever played before haven’t had an impact.
They’ve fed him a lot but haven’t forcefed him a thing.
Had a couple people wonder just how odd it was for a game to be decided on last-second free throws.
I offer last night’s Cleveland-Miami game as proof that, while rare, it’s not like it never happens.
We were trying to think the other day if there’s ever been a Raptor quite like Marco Belinelli. You know, a guy who’ll try anything, always playing at a rather frenetic pace and capable of astonishing moves one minute and confounding ones the next.
I couldn’t come up with one very much like him at all and that’s why he’s become such a personal favourite to watch. You have to watch him because you never know.
Like Sunday. On one play, he catches a pass right in front the Lakers bench, pump-fakes a closing defender so badly that the guy goes right past Belinelli and almost lands in Phil Jackson’s lap.
So what’s Marco do?
Set his feet, square his shoulders and drill a wide open, standstill three?
He sort of shakes his shoulders, splays his legs, and takes a inward-leaning odd-looking shot that gets nothing but net.
And the kid can deliver a good line, too.
When I asked him about that specific play, and about what goes in that mind of his to make him try some of the things he tries, he looks at me, laughs at bit and says:
“I don’t know. That’s me. Maybe I’m a little crazy.”
How can you not love the kid.
Know what I did last night?
I “lived” a mailbag.
In a very, very cool night set up through Ernst and Young with some hardcore Raptors fans-slash-way smarter than me financial gurus, a quite good question and answer session unfolded after a fine dinner.
A very good night, fine discussion, some very good probing questions and it affirmed my point that the level of basketball intelligence floating around this city is far, far greater than some think.
I need some help here.
Is Reggie Evans most like:
Whatever deity it is you worship?
Seriously, if he doesn’t come back and get like 25 rebounds a night and leave a consistent trail of bloodied opponents in his wake, I swear some people are going to be disappointed. I can’t remember a guy who got this much better when he was hurt.
I like Reggie Evans, he’s a nice guy and a pretty good basketball player. But there needs to be some toning down of expectations. Even if he takes every single backup big minute away from Amir Johnson, and I don’t imagine that happens, we’re looking at a 16-minute-a-night defensive specialist.
Lord help us if he struggles.
Here’s one for you:
In a discussion with one of the biggest shots of all around the Raptors yesterday, the topic was the relative euphoria around the Heroes Of The Hardcourt after Sunday.
The conversation, almost verbatim:
He: Yeah, but I was ticked off when I got home.
Me: Remember a bad play or something?
He: No, I watched TV.
Me: I know, no Dancing With The Stars re-runs, what a crappy night.
He: Shut up. I watched Sportsnet. We were like the 10th story on the news. Beat the Lakers for goodness sake. The Lakers! We were after the Edmonton Oilers skills competition. The Edmonton-freaking-Oilers skills competition. Do you believe that?
Me: Ah, yeah.