Sports ‘Family first’ fuels Raptor DeRozan

16:06  08 january  2018
16:06  08 january  2018 Source:   thestar.com

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Family comes first for Raptor DeMar DeRozan — with dad Frank, mom Diane, wife Kiara and daughter Diar. (Twitter). “ I probably had a busted lip or something,” DeRozan was saying on Sunday, smiling a little at the memory.

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NEW YORK—DeMar DeRozan, the 28-year-old NBA all-star, can’t remember how old he was the first time he beat his father in a game of playground one-on-one.

But he recalls one aspect of the familial match with some certainty. He’s pretty sure his father Frank, a former football player who dabbled in hoops, didn’t make it easy on him.

“I probably had a busted lip or something,” DeRozan was saying on Sunday, smiling a little at the memory. “Those one-on-ones were intense, extremely intense.”

DeRozan was reminiscing for a lamentable reason. In the midst of his evolutionary season, wherein the Toronto Raptors’ best player has added more regular flashes of three-point shooting and playmaking to his high-scoring arsenal, DeRozan has been using the game as a refuge from a sad reality. Lately Frank DeRozan has been in hospital in Los Angeles dealing with what DeMar described as “multiple” health issues, including a kidney ailment. At least twice in the past few weeks — most recently in the wake of a Dec. 27 date at Oklahoma City — DeMar DeRozan has used the space between games to hop a private plane and spend time at his father’s bedside.

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Speaking Sunday after practice in midtown Manhattan, this in the lead-up to Monday’s game in Brooklyn, DeRozan was asked to elaborate on his father’s condition.

“He’s still here — that’s all that matters,” DeRozan said.

DeRozan, whose mother Diane has long suffered from the autoimmune disease lupus, described Frank DeRozan as “a true definition of a father.”

“My dad was everything, from every angle: supporting, pushing, teaching, providing, everything,” DeRozan said. “My dad put the basketball in my hands. My dad took me to the park. My dad pushed me. My dad was my dad. My dad was the reason I wanted to play sports, just like every other kid that looked up to their dad. That’s what he was to me to this day, and what he is to me forever.”

As for performing at an unprecedented level through this time of familial turmoil, DeRozan shrugged it off as the reality of his situation.

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“I grew up in Compton, California, man. Every day was a challenge for me. That’s all I’ve known my whole life. It’s not a surprise for me. It’s not something that’s going to hold me down,” he said.

Kyle Lowry, DeRozan’s longtime friend and fellow all-star, said the team is fully aware of the challenge with which DeRozan’s family has been saddled, even if Lowry wasn’t happy to hear of the Toronto Sun report that first pointed it out.

“It wasn’t supposed to get out. Whoever said it shouldn’t have said it. But it got out,” said Lowry. “That’s something that we handle internally. That’s my best friend. I don’t worry about anything but his family and my family and his mental health. That’s all I really care about — as long as he’s good.”

While taking the NBA by storm, DeMar DeRozan has been making frequent trips to Los Angeles to be with his ailing father in hospital.© Frank Gunn While taking the NBA by storm, DeMar DeRozan has been making frequent trips to Los Angeles to be with his ailing father in hospital.

On the court, of course, DeRozan has been better than good of late. Though his scoring average has taken a dip this season — he is averaging 25 points a game, down from 27.1 a year ago — his newfound confidence from behind the three-point line has made him a more efficient offensive threat. His effective field-goal percentage of 52 per cent — which accounts for the fact that a three-point bucket is worth more than a two — is a career best.

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“Last year I took a lot of things personally, when people say you won’t make it if you don’t shoot threes in the NBA and I averaged close to 30 (points a game) at a high rate,” DeRozan said. “It was one of them things where I always take challenges on.”

Toronto coach Dwane Casey said he’s noticing opposing defences are beginning to respect DeRozan’s range from behind the arc, where he’s shooting a career-best 37 per cent — a quantum leap from last year’s dismal 27 per cent.

“He’s making a believer out of (opposing defences). And I think that’s going to open up a lot of things for him when they do start adjusting,” Casey said. “It’s good to see him going ahead and taking those shots with conviction and confidence, because he’s there. He works on it every day in practice. He works on it to nauseum in the summer.”

Given DeRozan’s fabled dedication to his craft, it probably hasn’t surprised the coach that the all-star’s trips to see his ailing father have come amid one of his most impressive stretches of play as an NBAer. Since DeRozan returned from his most recent visit with his father — a trip that made him a few minutes late to shootaround for a Dec. 29 home game against the Hawks — DeRozan is averaging 33 points and 5.8 assists a game, this while shooting 56 per cent from the field. Along the way he toppled the franchise single-game scoring record with a 52-point performance against the Bucks on New Year’s Day.

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Said Lowry, motioning across the gym to his friend: “That’s what a true professional can do, and he’s one of the best there is.”

Added Casey: “That’s maturity. To be able to do that back and forth (to L.A.). He did it a couple of times . . . and then he performed. It wasn’t like there was any dropoff or anything. That’s his focus, his maturity, and our prayers are out his family and to him . . . That’s a sign of his growth.”

Casey said DeRozan has the organization’s “full support” should he need to return to L.A. in the near future.

“This is his refuge here and he should use this as a refuge to get away from his issues and problems for those two hours,” Casey said, speaking of the basketball court. “But if he has to get away and go home for his family . . . family first.”

DeRozan, for his part, was philosophical about his father’s health struggles. The kid from the hard streets of Compton who beat his father in that playground game of one-on-one is now a father himself, taking care of his family while he takes care of his burgeoning on-court business. Being tough is one of the many things Frank DeRozan taught him. Staying strong — never mind getting ever stronger — is the least a son can do to comfort an ailing dad.

“You live on this Earth, you’re going to have some type of issue that occurs that’s close to you. It’s just a matter of how you handle it, how you go about it,” he said. “I go about mine like a man, like a professional. I don’t complain. I don’t cry about it. I don’t make excuses. These are things you just got to handle . . . It’s not something that’s going to hold me down. I fight through adversity anywhere it comes in my life. It’s nothing new to me.”

DeMar DeRozan fined $15K for criticizing refs after loss to Warriors .
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