Casey: DeRozan has room for growth
Dwane Casey isn't satisfied with DeMar DeRozan.
Having watched DeRozan work over the past three seasons, Casey considers it more of a stepping stone.
"It's great to see DeMar grow," the Raptors coach said during a conference call Monday afternoon. "There's still room for more growth on his part -- and he knows it -- on the defensive end and places in the offensive area.
"But from where he came from, he's grown leaps and bounds. And what's a beautiful thing is there's a lot more there with him."
DeRozan has overcome a shaky start and the Nets' relentless switching and trapping to make a positive impact. He had just 14 points on 3-for-13 shooting in the series-opening loss before scoring 30, 30 and 24 points, respectively, in the next three games.
Brooklyn is holding DeRozan to 36 percent shooting from the field, but he leads the league in free throws made and attempted in the postseason, going 42 of 48 from the line.
This is a continuation of what DeRozan did in a breakout regular season that resulted in his first All-Star appearance. He still is not close to an elite shooter, but he got to the free throw line more often than any other shooting guard outside of the Houston Rockets' James Harden.
In Toronto's Game 2 victory, DeRozan made two tough mid-range jump shots to break a late-game tie and followed it up by making six straight free throws to seal it. In the Raptors' Game 4 win, he kept composed and confident down the stretch despite missing his last nine field goal attempts, contributing by taking a key charge.
"I think him making the All-Star team kind of validated him, who he is and where he's come and what he's earned," Casey said. "I think now is about the team, about what he contributes to the team more so than him as an individual.
"DeMar's never been a guy that thinks about himself first, and so I think right now the only thing I see and feel and hear from DeMar is about what we can do, what the team can do. I think that's his approach throughout this series."
Toronto is coming off its first road playoff win in 13 years, forging a 2-2 tie in its best-of-seven series with Brooklyn.
While Sunday's contest was arguably the most important Raptors game in more than a decade, Casey stressed the significance of the bigger picture heading into Wednesday's Game 5. Prior to that, Toronto hadn't made it to the postseason since 2008.
For Casey, this is about DeRozan and the team building something.
"We're a young team," Casey said. "Nobody expected us to be here. Every experience is a new experience for us. Guys are growing in every situation. DeMar DeRozan is getting better in a playoff situation. But most of all, going through this process, through these games, going through the playoffs is nothing but a plus for our franchise.
"Now you've been in the playoffs once, you know what it tastes like, you know what it feels like. You know, going through the season when Coach is preaching physicality, how hard you gotta play, how you gotta take care of the ball, why he's saying that. Because all that comes into play in playoff basketball."
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