Despite not playing in Friday’s exhibition game against Puerto Rico, DeRozan survived the final round of cuts.
It’s late, so this post will be short. Toronto’s very own DeMar DeRozan has indeed made Team USA. DeRozan joins Jonas Valanciunas as the only members of the Toronto Raptors participating in the upcoming FIBA World Cup in Spain.
For all the hand-wringing about DeRozan’s lack three-point shooting or defensive prowess, USA Basketball director Jerry Colangelo and head coach Mike Krzyzewski must have seen things differently. At the start of training camp in Las Vegas, it was expected that Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, Kevin Durant and Paul George would factor into the team’s plans. Therefore, players like Kyle Korver and Chandler Parsons — those with skills befitting of a role player — were valued. DeRozan only appeared in one of three exhibition games, but he impressed in his lone game against the Dominican Republic, posting 13 points (on 6-0f-9 shooting), five rebounds and six assists.
However, with each of Griffin (back injury), Durant (rest), Love (rest) and George (leg injury) withdrawing their candidacies, the value of shot-creation likely increased, making DeRozan’s skillset — ability to play the wing, create in the pick-and-roll, draw fouls — more appealing. It should be noted that Team USA is apparently looking to mostly rely on a eight-man core to shoulder the bulk of minutes, but the tournament leaves little time for rest (Team USA will play five games in six days in the preliminary round), meaning all 12 players should all see the floor at some point.
As an aside, I’d like to use this space to congratulate DeRozan. While I’m breaking the erudite code of being an impartial journalist, I think it’s important to take account of how far DeRozan has come. After seeing him struggle through his first four mostly uninspired seasons, I was among the doubters. Never would I have thought that within a year’s time, DeRozan would qualify for both the All-Star team and Team USA. He certainly still has his flaws, and for long-time watchers of DeRozan like myself, we’ve been conditioned to count his flaws and see him for what he’s not, but in looking back, DeRozan has surpassed even the loftiest of expectations. Lots of players talk the talk about hard work and being committed to improving. DeRozan has actually gone out and done so. Speaking as a fan, that’s the type of attitude and leadership I want on the Raptors. Congrats again, DeMar!
Team USA’s final 12-man roster looks as follows (can you tell they’re worried about Spain?):Follow @raptorsrepublic