TORONTO — DeMar DeRozan is joining Toronto Raptors teammate Kyle Lowry in the NBA all-star game.
And moments after Toronto defeated the New York Knicks 103-93 for a record-setting 10th consecutive win Thursday night, the 26-year-old shooting guard reflected on his rocky six-and-a-half-year journey with the Raptors.
"Words can’t explain it, especially with the rough time I had last year, going down with the injury," DeRozan said. "Nothing was ever given to me. I had to work for every single thing I accomplished…
"You always think about the tough times, losing records, getting criticized. People saying I can’t do this, I can’t do that. All of the negativity you have to deal with. You look back on it and think about, and understand it as hard work. It’s cliche I know."
DeRozan was named an Eastern Conference reserve on Thursday, as voted by NBA coaches.
It marks the first time the Raptors have had two players voted onto the all-star squad, and the addition of DeRozan, says coach Dwane Casey, is just reward for a hardworking player and all-around good guy.
"He is what you want an NBA player to be about," said Casey. "He and his family are just beautiful people."
The Feb. 14 game at the Air Canada Centre marks the second appearance for both DeRozan and Lowry, who was voted an all-star starter last week by fans.
DeRozan, whose torn groin tendon squashed his hopes of making last season's all-star affair, is averaging 23.0 points a night this season. He and Lowry -- with 20.9 points a game -- combine for the highest-scoring backcourt in the Eastern Conference.
Sharing the experience on homecourt with his friend and teammate, DeRozan said, "is big."
"I take pride in putting on the Toronto Raptors jersey since I've been here," he said. "And now to have the all-star game here and have two guys participating, it doesn't get much bigger than that."
Lowry was asked if there's anyone he would rather share the all-star court with.
"Naw man," he said. "It's been a long road for both of us. He has been here longer than me and from where I'm coming from it's just really good to be able to share it with someone you actually care about and want to see be successful."
DeRozan missed 21 games last season after tearing his groin, a moment he said made him realize he's only human, and careers can be fleeting.
"Going down like that, not sure how long you're going to be out, dealing with something you have no clue about...I remember that night, sitting in the MRI till 3:30 in the morning just thinking about every single thing," he said. "But I just stuck to it, all I knew is working hard. You know, just taking it one day at a time.
"It was great to see Kyle make it last year and represent our team. A year later, we're in the same position."
Casey said the all-star honour is an example of DeRozan's commitment to Toronto.
"A few guys have bailed, he stuck with it, he's a loyal young man," Casey said of the six-year Raptors veteran. "He loves the city, loves the organization, loves his teammates. I think this is a testament to that and a reward for that. And most of all a reward for how hard he's worked, those hot afternoons in Compton (Calif.), in his high school gym down there, and working is paying off."
Raptors Vince Carter and Antonio Davis both played in the 2001 all-star game, but Davis was selected as a replacement for an injured Theo Ratliff.
Toronto becomes the first host city since Los Angeles in 1972 (Jerry West and Gail Goodrich) to have a pair of guards in the game.
"Both those guys have done it different ways, but both of them it's a testament to how hard they work and the time they put in," Casey said. "I don't think if you looked in a crystal ball, you would've said you'd have two all-stars starting for the Toronto Raptors four or five years ago."
DeRozan is joined by fellow East reserves Chicago's Jimmy Butler, Detroit's Andre Drummond, Miami's Chris Bosh, Washington's John Wall, Atlanta's Paul Millsap and Boston's Isaiah Thomas.
The West reserves are Golden State's Draymond Green and Klay Thompson, Sacramento's DeMarcus Cousins, Houston's James Harden, San Antonio's LaMarcus Aldridge, the Clippers' Chris Paul and New Orleans' Anthony Davis.