TORONTO — The Toronto Raptors are taking a conservative approach to DeMar DeRozan’s groin injury treatment, and are not setting a timeline for his return.
DeRozan, in the meantime, has asked to join the Raptors’ coaching staff so he can make the most of his time off the court.
"I think this is going to definitely help me out mentally, just becoming more of a student of the game and really scouting and looking at the game a different way," DeRozan said. "Just understanding a lot more about the game… seeing how coaches approach the game, scouting games. I talked to (coach Dwane) Casey about sitting in on the meetings and being a part of that and educating myself on that end."
DeRozan spoke to the media for the first time since he tore a tendon in his groin in a game against Dallas on Nov. 28. Friday’s game versus the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers marked the fourth game DeRozan missed.
The Raptors all-star had only missed 11 games in total in his previous five NBA seasons, and the player known for his work ethic isn’t happy with being idle. He said he knew, when he went down midway through the third quarter — he lay on the court for several minutes before being helped to the dressing room — that the injury wasn’t something he could shake off.
"It’s definitely tough, I’m used to being out there," DeRozan said. "(But) I always look at it like it could be worse. It could be a lot worse. I’m still going to come back, I’m still going to play. When I got up and walked off I knew I was okay, but whatever it was, was going to take some time."
DeRozan said he sought out advice for his recovery from Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, who returned to playing after rupturing his Achilles tendon.
"I talked to him and we had a great conversation about just being able to stay positive," DeRozan said. "Obviously he had a tougher injury than me, but staying positive, what he did to grow mentally…That was one person, especially with somebody I look up to, that really gave me some good insight."
Alex McKechnie, the Raptors’ director of sports science, said surgery isn’t an option for DeRozan’s injury.
"The way to approach this at the moment is, we’re taking a multi-faceted, conservative approach to this. We’ve done some scans, we’ve identified a little tearing in the muscle. We take it week-to-week. We’ll assess it again next week," McKechnie said. "We’re not going to put a timeframe on it. The progression of this, it’s a high velocity injury when it takes place and we’ve got to rebuild the muscle structure back to be able to withstand the same forces."
In the meantime, DeRozan said he’s been spending a good chunk of his time on the couch, either watching basketball or playing Madden video games.
"That’s been my day, every single day, just to keep my sanity," DeRozan said. "But I’m getting better every single day. I feel the difference, just feeling myself healing. So that’s definitely a positive."
DeRozan said his teammates have helped keep his spirits up.
"Amir (Johnson) texted me one night, couple nights ago and he just said he was walking down the hotel hallway screaming my name and he was used to me popping my head out the door," DeRozan said, laughing. "Something like that goes so far because it just shows the appreciation that your teammates have for you and the relationship that you have together."
He’s also enjoyed watching teammate and his co-captain Kyle Lowry step up in his absence.
"I told him he had no choice," DeRozan said. "He told me after the Laker game it was tough, taking that many shots. I was like, ‘You can’t think like that. You’ve just got to have a different mindset.’ He’s been playing outstanding the last couple games.
"I told him ‘Don’t worry if you go 5-for-30, who cares. You’ve just got to go out there and be an example.’ It’s fun watching him performing now."