Sportsnet.ca: Gary Payton is DeMar DeRozan’s Ace in the Hole
DeMar DeRozan knows how this game works.
He knows the doubts of his detractors. He knows he must keep improving and working if he wants to be playing past April. In his fourth season with the Toronto Raptors, he also knows the feeling of losing all too well.
While DeRozan is open and accommodating when it comes to the basketball part of his life, you need to listen hard and pick your questions carefully because he isn’t the guy who brags or boasts to make himself or his game sound better.
Instead of namedropping or flexing on social media outlets about his lifestyle, he’s more likely to discuss how he’s given up soda this season or mention how many evenings he’s spent staying in — including New Year’s Eve — studying up on his opponents on Synergy.
While he isn’t one to talk about himself, he’s got someone else willing to do it for him.
Gary Payton wants you to know how much DeRozan cares about the game and how hard he works to respect it.
“That’s my man,” DeRozan said, when asked about Payton. “I love that dude, man.”
In typical DeRozan fashion, the news that Payton has been working with him during the offseason and mentoring him since he was in high school was revealed nonchalantly. First mentioned in a feature written by Sportsnet Magazine’s Dave Zarum, DeRozan kept his Hall of Fame finalist mentor under wraps for the first three seasons of his career.
“DeMar’s a great kid,” Payton said during a phone interview. “I’ve seen DeMar ever since he was playing in high school and he was coming to a lot of the Vegas things and I heard about a kid out of L.A. that was really, really good.”
When DeRozan made the decision to enter the NBA after one season at USC, it was Payton’s agent, Aaron Goodwin, that he signed with. That’s not the only connection between the two, though. Raptors assistant Eric Hughes, the coach who worked with DeRozan nearly every night during his rookie season, is one of Payton’s oldest and closest friends from Oakland.