DeMar DeRozan has now officially shattered every stereotype imaginable of today’s young professional athlete.
New Year’s Eve turns into New Year’s Day and everyone knows the kids are out at the clubs or someone’s house, right?
Practice for that day is long over, there’s not another game for two days, the benevolent dictators who run things around the Raptors schedule a rare mid-afternoon practice on Jan. 1 so that the kids can go out and have their fun.
He’s a 22-year-old lad, with wealth and fame and notoriety beyond his wildest imagination and surely some A List event is beckoning.
He’s in bed most of the night. Watching videos. Of himself. Playing basketball. So he can get better.
“New Year’s? I was watching film that night,” DeRozan said Thursday. “I probably watched film for about two hours. A lot of my mistakes, a lot of my decision-making, a lot of little things like that.”
No, DeMar. We’re talking New Year’s Eve here.
“New Year’s night. Right after they said Happy New Year,” he said. “It was about 1:30 in the morning until about 3 in the morning. I was just laying in bed and watching. I’m just trying to better myself at every part.”
The conversation post-practice got to that point because DeRozan is dead certain that his improved play overall is directly attributable to his improved study habits. He spends countless hours, he says, critiquing himself on a television screen because that’s what the true greats do and it’s finally hit him than if he wants to be elite, he has to emulate those better than him.
“I watch film with the coaches and everything but now I’ve taken it more on myself,” he said. “Just listening to older guys — Kobe watches a lot of film — just from the upper echelon players that do more than the average player does, watching film, watching little detail things. Mentally that helps you and that’s something I didn’t understand my first couple of years.
“I pay attention to all my mistakes and try to learn from them more than anything.”
There can be no questioning DeRozan’s improvement this season. He came to the NBA after just one year at university as a far better athlete than he was a basketball player but he’s worked diligently at his craft. His jump shot is exponentially better than it was in his first three years, his defence still has room to improve (“he’s strong enough and athletic enough to guard any twos or threes in this league, he just has to make sure he stays focused on that end of the floor,” said coach Dwane Casey) and he understands the nuances of the game far better than he did.
Some of it is due to the natural maturation of a young NBA player, a lot of is due to his work ethic.
“I’m more confident in every decision I make on both ends . . . more comfortable and understanding and not questioning none of my opportunities,” he said.
“Whether I should drive or shoot or if I should be aggressive this time,” he said. “I think I’m just reading situations better than I was and understanding what I have to do, not just for myself but for the next person on the team.”
Just growing up.
“It comes with experience and I watch a lot of film,” he said. “Just understanding defences or how they’re going to play me.
“Just little stuff that I never paid attention to before.”