DeMar DeRozan says he wants to stay with the Raptors
Toronto Raptors' DeMar DeRozan speaks to media during a season wrap-up conference at the Biosteel Centre, in Toronto on Saturday, May 28, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Neil Davidson
Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press
Published Saturday, May 28, 2016 4:16PM EDT
TORONTO -- DeMar DeRozan has ridden the Raptors' roller-coaster over his seven seasons in Toronto, hanging on through the team's highs and lows like no other current player.
Through it all, he says, he's never wanted to play for anyone else.
A lucrative contract beckons the 26-year-old this summer. But less than 24 hours after the Raptors' finest season in franchise history came to an emotional close, DeRozan said he's committed to this team and the city of Toronto.
"I took pride in putting that Raptors jersey on when people counted us out, or when people said 'Why go to Toronto? Why this, why that, why this, why that?"' DeRozan said.
"My mindset has always been Toronto. I was passionate about it when we was losing. When we was terrible, I said I'm going to stick through this whole thing and I want to be that guy who brings this organization to where it is now. I definitely don't want to switch up after we win."
The future of the two-time all-star and team's leading scorer looms large over the Raptors as they head into the off-season. Toronto was eliminated Friday night by Cleveland in Game 6 of their Eastern Conference finals debut, ending a thrilling 20-game post-season run.
DeRozan has a player option for next season worth US$10 million, but he's expected to test the open market, and could earn a max deal worth more than double that.
There's something to be said, however, for playing an entire career for one franchise.
"I think that's the most incredible thing you can do, me personally," DeRozan said. "That's awesome."
Reports have linked him to his hometown Los Angeles Lakers. He all but spiked them on Saturday.
"I grew up in L.A. That's my home. . . I let whoever comes up with that say what they want to say," DeRozan said. "Only thing appealing to me is the things I've done in this organization and the things that can be done here. And that's always been my mindset since I've been here."
Raptors coach Dwane Casey said you can take DeRozan at his word.
"That's one great quality he has. He's a man of his word. He's a loyal guy," Casey said. "He loves this city. He loves the team. He loves the growth pattern that we've had the past few years and he's a big part of that."
The Raptors met with the media on Saturday, the morning after they walked off the Air Canada Centre court to raucous applause and appreciative chants of "We the North!"
They came within a remarkable two games of the NBA finals, and that will sting for awhile, said Kyle Lowry.
"I'm still disappointed," Lowry said. "DeMar said it best yesterday: 'All the work you put in, it wrecks all summer to get knocked down. Now you're back at the bottom of the podium with everyone else. That's not fun. There's only three teams left. Just have to wait to get the disappointment out of me."
The Raptors are expected to begin talks on Casey's contract soon as well. The 59-year-old coach has one season left on his current deal at the Raptors' option for US$4 million next season.
Casey, who led the team to a franchise-best 56 wins and the No. 2 seed in the east, said his contract status is "the last thing on my mind." But Lowry took the opportunity to sing the praises of his veteran coach.
"He's been amazing and I feel like he's still trying to get better as a coach," Lowry said. "He's changed every year since I've been here and grown as well as I. Every year we've gotten better. . . it's hard to put into words, he's been such a good coach and a guy that we can lean on. He has been unbelievable."
Casey, who got off to a rocky start with Lowry, had kind words for his temperamental point guard as well.
"He has grown so much as a person, as a man, as a teammate that I enjoy coaching Kyle Lowry," Casey said. "And that's something that coaches wouldn't have said five or six years ago. He's been a joy to coach. You even embrace it when he's in a bad mood, because you know he's ready to play."
Casey used a horse racing analogy.
"Secretariat was one of the nippiest horses. They knew he was ready to run when they had to put the muzzle on him. So you know Kyle Lowry's ready to play when he's a little cantankerous and a little acidic," Casey said, prompting laughter from reporters. "He willed this team. He was the engine for this team to go where we went."
Casey and his players praised the massive support from the ACC crowd, saying the fans pushed their weary bodies to Game 7 victories against Indiana and Miami.
"A coach in the league called me last night, after the game, talking about LeBron (James) soaking up the crowd -- this is an opposing player -- talking about the atmosphere that we had," Casey said. "Just gives you goosebumps to hear the crowd. We were getting beat by a gazillion points, and they're standing up cheering for their team. And there's no place like that in the NBA."