DeMar DeRozan is a man on a mission this season. Despite all the noise that surrounded him this offseason, DeRozan found a way to block out the distractions and focus on what’s most important: taking his game to the next level. He prepared for his 10th season in the league by training harder and smarter than ever before, fueled by a chip-on-the-shoulder mentality and a need to send a message to the rest of the league. He’s more determined than ever to be at the top of his game. He’s out to prove a point. We caught up with the All-Star ahead of his first season in San Antonio to talk about what’s next for one of the league’s fiercest competitors.
Q: You’re heading into your tenth season. You’ve obviously had a ton of success in the league already, what kind of personal goals are you setting for this year?
A: Going into my tenth year, I’m looking forward to a new challenge. Being in the Western Conference for the first time on a new team, I want to put together everything I’ve learned from my whole career – all the ups and downs – and really make that transitional move to understanding all the ins and outs of the game from the business side and the floor.
Q: Going into this new chapter, what challenges are you expecting with the grind of the Western Conference every night?
A: As a competitor, the Western Conference is something you definitely want to be in. You want to be in the midst of the greatest competition every single night, no matter who you’re playing against. It’s important to understand how to separate being as good of a player as you are now from testing that every single night. That’s what brings out the best in you. I’m looking forward to that – I think that’s going to be the biggest challenge, but as a competitor you want to face those challenges and test yourself.
Q: What do you want people to see as you step on the floor that first game?
A: I want people to see a bigger and better DeMar. Learning from the failures, the changes, and the challenges that come every single year. Going out the way we did last year in the playoffs, that’s a part of my hunger and motivation just to get back on the court, then being traded, being on a new team – that motivation kind of creates an emotional dark side that I want to bring out when I step on the court.
Q: That covers a lot of the adversity you’ve faced over the last year. What advice do you have for others who might be facing similar challenges?
A: Treat it like a diamond in the rough. Adversity does nothing but make you better. You can’t bow down to adversity, because it’s just testing you on how much better you can be. If anything you’re doing becomes comfortable, you shouldn’t like that. Anything that comes with this game should be uncomfortable because it should be pushing you to want to be better, every single day. When adversity comes, just understand that it’s going to bring out something in you that you didn’t even know you had.
Q: You’re now the face of the Kobe line with Nike. As someone who looked up to Kobe growing up, can you talk about what it means to you be the face of that shoe line?
A: Being the face of the Kobe shoe is definitely an honor for me – I grew up watching Kobe. From day one as a kid to playing in the same All-Star Game as Kobe – his last All-Star Game – it’s been amazing. When it comes to the shoe, it’s always been one of my favorites to wear. I love the shoe, and I think the honor I wear the shoe with, the loyalty that I wear the shoe with, speaks for itself every time I go out there on the court.
Q: You’ve played in the new one – is there something specific you would call out, or what was your first reaction to the Kobe?
A: I’m real big on how a shoe fits your whole foot and, for me, as soon as you put the shoe on it’s kind of like a glove – a perfect fit. The grip on the shoe is definitely great, the stability of the whole bottom of the sole is great, and it’s still a light shoe. I’d probably have to put this in my top-2 favorite Kobes of all time.
Q: We’re so excited to have you on our latest cover.
A: It’s an honor. This dates back to when I was a kid. If you didn’t have an Eastbay magazine growing up, you weren’t a real sports fan. Every month, if there was a new Eastbay sitting on the porch or in the mailbox, that’s the only thing you looked for. You didn’t care about the newspaper or your mom’s bills, you were throwing that to the side and picking up Eastbay no matter what. I remember going through it wishing I had this, this, this, and this, so for it to come full-circle now is crazy.