Lost in the sauce of KD's transition to Golden State, The Clippers surprising dominance and the remarkable emergence of the Lakers as a respectable team once again, the best California Dreamin' story of this young NBA campaign is undoubtedly the offensive brilliance of DeMar DeRozan.
Coming Straight Outta Compton, DeRozan is averaging a league-high 33.2 points ten games into this young season, the fifth-highest average at this stage over the last 30 years. The two-time Toronto Raptors NBA All-Star is shooting 54% percent from the field and he's scored 30 or more in eight games already.
When he was coming out of Compton High School as one of the top recruits in the Class of 2008, folks marveled at his athleticism, wingspan and muscular build. Folks began comparing him to Vince Carter because of his flight game, but people who knew what they were looking at got more excited about his mid-range repertoire.
He possessed a rare combination of strength and finesse for a player so young. The footwork, spin-moves and floaters, along with his versatility while attacking the paint, and away from the basket, all pointed to the NBA after a one-and-done college career. But I don't think many predicted the career arc that we're now witnessing.
The critics questioned his heart, wondered if had the desire to dominate, they questioned his range, said his ballhandling was shaky, that he had no post-up skills and was not an effective distributor.
But like Kool Moe Dee, he's looking at all of them, along with Sports Illustrated which ranked him as the 46th-best player in the league at season's tip, on some, "How You Like Me Now?"
“He’s tough to stop,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said in advance of his team's matchup tonight against DeRozan and the Raptors. “He’s got the speed and the strength to get any shot he wants.”
Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Damian Lillard, Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis and James Harden are having great early-season success with scoring the ball. But none of them has been more dominant than DeRozan.
Teams have been throwing every conceivable defense at him to slow him down, and his game is still talking faster than a polygamous pastor!
No matter the double or even triple-teams, the zones and help defenses, DeRozan is the Paul Vario of the NBA right now. Plead your case and try all you want when the ball is in his hands, his response is simple, direct and straight to the point: "F you, pay me!"
I remember watching him before his freshman year at USC at the Jordan Brand Classic in 2008. Admittedly, I was more hyped heading into that game about the other guard from California, Brandon Jennings, the combo guard out of Philadelphia, Tyreke Evans, and the kid from the New York City playgrounds known as The Prince of Zamunda and EZ Pass, Kemba Walker, that my colleagues and I at Bounce Magazine decided to put on the mag's cover.
But I walked out of there thinking that DeRozan could possibly be better than all of them. I had no clue that he would one day be the NBA's most explosive scorer, with a sick combination of Dirk Nowitzki's mid-range, Dwyane Wade's attack, and Vince Carter's flight games.
This summer, DeRozan re-upped with the Raptors on a five-year deal worth $139 million. When some folks get franchise money, they lose a little bit of motivation to prove themselves on a nightly basis. The young man from Compton is just the opposite.
He came out blazing on opening night, dropping 40 on the Pistons. He followed that up by giving LeBron, Kyrie, Kev Love and the Cavs 32, and continued giving out work to the tune of 33 against the Nuggets and 40 against the Wizards.
His five straight 30-point explosions to start a season was the NBA's best since Air Jordan blazed six straight back when Chandler Jerrell was saying, "I, I, I, I want da Knife. Please," back in '86. Four days ago against the Knicks, he got his eighth 30-point jammy in nine games. The only other players to rain buckets like that in their first nine games were Jordan, World B. Free and Tiny Archibald.
DeRozan came back after winning a Gold Medal in Rio this summer with Team USA intent on taking the next step from All-Star to superstar.
“I just want to continue to get better, continue to do things people say you can’t do,” DeRozan told the Toronto Star this summer. “That’s something that as long as I can play the game of basketball, I’ll be striving to (do)...prove people wrong.”
The Raptors are coming off a 56-win season, two seven-game series early in the playoffs and a six-game rumble in the Eastern Conference Finals against the eventual world champion Cavaliers. Judging from the early results thus far, DeRozan is hardly satisfied.
Like the Bionic Man, he came back better than he was before.
And from the look of things, the temperature's rising.
DeRozan seems like he's ready to have a season for the ages, with an eye on taking some next steps.
LeBron is the league's Bigfoot right now. But Compton's Bionic Man is primed, if he keeps it up, for a legendary playoff scrap with the NBA's Sasquatch as he looks to write this next chapter of his career arc.
My man keeps getting better and better. Sports Illustrated might want to re-think that whole 46th-best player in the NBA thing.