Chris Bosh became the face of the Toronto Raptors in the first seven years of his career. Yet when he signed with the Miami HEAT in 2010, the perception of him quickly shifted from the star who left his team behind to the third wheel alongside LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
Not everyone saw him in that role, though, including those who played with him. Four years later, only two of Bosh’s former teammates still remain on the Raptors: Amir Johnson and DeMar DeRozan. At the time they played together, DeRozan was a 20-year-old rookie guard. Fresh out of his first (and only) year at USC, he was trying to learn his way in a veteran starting lineup.
Bosh didn’t go easy on DeRozan. He also entered the NBA after one season in college at Georgia Tech. There were no free passes in the pros for inexperience. DeRozan credits Bosh for helping to kick start his career.
“He was tough on me from the standpoint, I think he knew how good I could be,” DeRozan told Basketball Insiders. “I was the starting guard with him, (Hedo) Turkoglu, (Andrea) Bargnani, Jose Calderon. I was the only rookie out there. A lot of mistakes I made, he would just be hard on me about it so I could be better. He was a good dude. He’s a good friend of mine.”
DeRozan looked up to Bosh. He listened to the veteran whose words weren’t always delivered softly. The messages still resonate loudly years later.
“One game we were playing Miami in Miami and I wouldn’t shoot the ball,” DeRozan recalled. “He yelled at me, saying, ‘Shoot the ball! Shoot the ball!’ I just took from that have confidence in yourself. No matter if you miss it, continue to keep playing, continue to keep shooting.”
A lot has changed since then. As a rookie, DeRozan averaged 8.6 points, 2.9 rebounds and 0.7 assists. Last season he posted a career-best 22.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.1 steals and became the team’s first All-Star since Bosh in 2010. His numbers stayed consistent during the Raptors’ first round series against the Brooklyn Nets, his postseason debut.
Through the first five games of this season, DeRozan is averaging 22.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 2.6 steals for the 4-1 Raptors.
Unlike the rising reputation of DeRozan, critics haven’t always been as complimentary of Bosh. Deemed by many as “the other guy” on the HEAT, his performances — no matter how strong — were often overshadowed by those of James and Wade. Once in Miami, Bosh’s numbers dipped from the 20-and-10 marker. There were only so many touches, though, to go around on a deep team.
With James back on the Cleveland Cavaliers, Bosh’s role and numbers have increased. He is averaging 24.2 points, 11.0 rebounds and 2.8 assists this season, the most since his final year in Toronto. It’s the kind of performance DeRozan expects from the 10-time All-Star and two-time NBA champion.
“I think he’s a Hall of Famer, honestly,” said DeRozan. “He’s got the rings, he’s been an All-Star every year. He averaged 20-plus points and 10-plus rebounds a couple years, and I think he’s back on the verge of doing that again this year. He’s just a dynamic, hell of a power forward.”
DeRozan was left without his veteran leader when Bosh signed with the HEAT. After years of losing records and rebuilding ups and downs, the Raptors are poised to compete in the Eastern Conference with 25-year-old DeRozan as one of its driving forces.
“(I missed) everything (about Bosh) because we were terrible, we were terrible back then,” he said. “It was a learning experience. He kind of left the team to me and I’ve been here ever since.”
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