When the season ended, many expected DeRozan to bolt for the NBA. But DeRozan wasn’t so sure. After the season, he met with Floyd to discuss the possibility of returning for his sophomore year.
“We told him that we would try to do our background research, and if we found out he was a lottery pick we would make him go because we did not want the responsibility of him getting hurt,” says Floyd. “We made three phone calls. All of them said ‘definite lottery.’ We just said, ‘You gotta go. You gotta go.’”
A few months later, DeRozan was in New York at the 2009 NBA Draft walking across the stage to shake David Stern’s hand after the Raptors selected him with the ninth overall pick. After spending the first 19 years of his life in southern California, DeRozan was bound for Toronto.
While it was at first an adjustment (he had to get a passport after being drafted), DeRozan has since adapted to life north of the border. For one, he’s developed an interest in hockey (although he’s still not a fan of the weather). He’s also begun to adapt to his role on the Raptors. After averaging 8.6 points and 2.9 rebounds per game as a rookie, DeRozan had a dominant finish to his second season in the league, posting 23.1 points per game last April.
“Once you play in the league, and once you become a student of the league and start understanding the game, it all starts to slow down and gets easier,” says DeRozan. “I swear it seemed like the game slowed down. It was like playing in slow motion.”
DeRozan hasn’t exactly picked up where he left off to start the 2011-12 season, but he has had dominant performances, going for 21 and 25 in back-to-back wins over the Knicks and Cavaliers, respectively, in early January.
But perhaps even more importantly, he’s happy with his decision to leave home for the NBA.
Floyd, who left USC after DeRozan’s rookie season and signed on as a top assistant for the Hornets, remembers one conversation he had with his former player midway through his rookie season before New Orleans faced Toronto. Concerned for DeRozan’s well-being, Floyd had a number of questions.
“‘How are you doing with the homesickness? How are you doing being away from home? How are you doing managing your money? Are you going to be okay?’” recalls Floyd. “He had a big smile on his face the whole time. He just said, ‘Coach, I know I’ve done the right thing.’ And that’s all he needed to say.”