DeRozan gives The 6 a

Rap­tors guard loves Toronto, is com­mit­ted to fran­chise

SundayXtra - - NBA PLAY­OFFS - By Lori Ewing

TORONTO — DeMar DeRozan has rid­den the Rap­tors’ roller­coaster 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 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.”

FRANK GUNN / THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Toronto Rap­tors guards DeMar DeRozan (left) and Kyle Lowry em­brace Toronto’s play­off run came to an end Fri­day night.

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