TORONTO -- Even the shortened NBA pre-season has been too long for DeMar DeRozan.
"It sucks," DeRozan summed up Tuesday.
The Toronto Raptors star said his goal to begin every season is to be a better player than the previous one. He hinted he's only shown a glimpse of his game in the pre-season, which was shortened by two weeks under the new collective bargaining agreement. But the lights will be cranked up high and every seat filled when the Raptors open the regular-season -- finally -- Thursday night against the visiting Chicago Bulls.
DeRozan can't wait to get real.
"(It's tough) just waiting for the real thing, especially when you're a competitor," DeRozan said. "I kind of let it show opening night. That's when, as a competitor, when them lights come on, you put that jersey on, you tie them shoes up a little bit tighter than you would during the pre-season, you understand what's at stake. That's how I approach it."
The 28-year-old, who's heading into his ninth season with Toronto, said the pre-season is about finding a rhythm, and players often "coast" by necessity.
"You're not going to play that much, you're not going to play your regular style, you're not going to shoot the same amount of shots, you're not going to do everything you do in a real game," he said. "You kind of have no choice but when the real thing comes around to be completely ready."
DeRozan, who averaged a team-high 27.3 points a night last season, was unimpressed when Sports Illustrated slotted him in 36th in their annual pre-season player ratings -- he tweeted "F SI....ProveEm." But his season goals, he said, are never about measuring himself against others, and they're not about certain point totals.
"I don't come out and say 'I'm going to average X amount of points,"' he said. "It's never just one thing. I never just look at it like I'm going to be the No. 1 scorer this year. I just look at it like, this is what I did last year, this is what I could be better at, if I add this on top of what I know I can do, I can be better player in general."
DeRozan believes the Raptors will benefit from keeping their core from last season intact, saying "camaraderie and chemistry is hard to come by." But he happily welcomes newcomer C.J. Miles, heaping praise on the 30-year-old sniper who scored 27 points in the Raptors' pre-season finale against the Bulls.
"To light it up like that, especially with the second unit, the way he did it. . . I remember scouting for him, and our main goal when we were playing Indiana in the (2016) playoffs was not to let C.J. get going. So for us, it's hard for (opponents) to say 'Let's not let get Kyle (Lowry) or DeMar going,' but then you have to worry about a guy like C.J., so that's big."
Has DeRozan ever played with such a lethal long-range shooter?
"Peja Stojakovic. Briefly," said DeRozan -- Stojakovic played just two games for Toronto in 2011. "It's the truth though. A lot of people wouldn't know that. It's crazy. (Miles) does it with no effort, especially when he's wide open. And for him to come to me and say this is the most fun he's had in a long time, thus far as (his) career, it's definitely great."
Miles is enjoying the mix of youngsters, who he's guided on the second unit, and veterans such as DeRozan and Lowry.
"I'm just having fun being able to be on both sides of it," Miles said. "And the coaching staff has been really great with helping me come along with everything they're doing, and the players accepted me from Day 1."
Miles listed Kyle Korver as the best shooter he's ever played with, saying he soaked up a lot of Korver's practice habits and pre-game preparation when the two were teammates in Utah.
"Ray Allen was my guy (though) when I was a kid," Miles said. "He was my favourite player. He was the reason I started wearing rubber bands on my wrist. I enjoyed watching those guys that had a little bit of everything. He was obviously a supreme shooter but you couldn't just play him that way. That was one of the things that I wanted to be able to have -- to be able to put it on the floor one or two times and make a play to keep guys honest."
The Raptors, who went 3-2 in the pre-season, host Philadelphia on Saturday before heading west for a gruelling six-game road trip that opens Monday in San Antonio.