SAN ANTONIO – After a difficult summer, where he was traded from the only franchise he ever played for, Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan came into his first season in San Antonio with what he called the "biggest chip on his shoulder."
With 82 regular season games in the books, DeRozan is still motivated as ever, as the Spurs prepare for a challenging playoffs series against the Denver Nuggets.
"I've had a lot of success and fails in the playoffs, and that's my motivation to come here and start fresh with a new group of guys," DeRozan said Friday before the team flew to Denver for Saturday night's Game 1.
📹ICYMI...Gotta like this from DeMar DeRozan as playoffs start tonight.."Every possession counts, there are no more 'my bads.' It's out there, smelling blood, you have want to win every possession'...#Spurs #Nuggets tipoff at 9:30pm (📹@adamthephotog) #KSATsports #NBA pic.twitter.com/DPInwiV0Mx— RJ Marquez (@KSATRJ) April 13, 2019
DeRozan was the biggest piece in a major overhaul that saw the Spurs bring in eight new faces to a franchise that has been the model of consistency.
A devastating season-ending injury to point guard Dejounte Murray, and an early-season injury to Derrick White forced DeRozan to become the focal point of the Spurs offense.
He responded by averaging career highs in assists (6.2) and rebounds (6.0), all while averaging 21 points per game.
Before the season, not many gave the Spurs a chance to make the playoffs in a loaded Western Conference, but DeRozan held the fort while the team came together and qualified for the playoffs for the 22nd consecutive time.
Still, the veteran all-star guard knows regular season success does not translate to the postseason and there are still many who doubt what he can do in the playoffs.
📹👀DeMar DeRozan had some fun with Rudy Gay while he was speaking to the media before #Spurs traveled to Denver to start their first round series vs #Nuggets...Game 1 is tonight. (📹@adamthephotog) #KSATsports #KSATnews #NBA #NBAPlayoffs pic.twitter.com/Hs5Yh58w86— RJ Marquez (@KSATRJ) April 13, 2019
"It's another great opportunity for me to compete," DeRozan said. "You have to understand that everything is now over-magnified, but with that you have to be up to the challenge."
The challenge is a talented Denver team that finished with the second seed in the West. The Spurs, who have faced doubts all season, are not favored to advance.
DeRozan likes the Spurs' chances and believes the adversity the team faced, from the summer to this point, will be beneficial.
"We felt some lows and felt some highs, now every single person on this team has to be ready for this opportunity," DeRozan said. "Every possession counts, there are no more my bads."
While that "chip" is still firmly on his shoulder, one thing has changed. DeRozan now has a team he can trust to help carry it with him.