SAN ANTONIO — Former San Antonio Spurs player DeMar DeRozan admits his time with the Silver and Black helped elevate his game.
He says Coach Gregg Popovich helped his game reach new heights following his trade from Toronto to San Antonio in 2018.
"Before then, I was a scorer...if I'm 5-for-30, I don't care. If I'm 15-for-30. Like that was my whole mindset. [Popovich] challenged me to the point of understanding the game in the complete whole," DeRozan said. "How to be a point guard. How to be a playmaker. How to dictate the game. How to move without the play. How to play without the ball. How not to turn over the ball."
In three seasons with the Spurs, DeRozan posted 21.6 points per game while leading the team in assists with 6.2 per game along with 49 percent shooting.
Those are solid numbers for any NBA player but for DeRozan, he feels his play in San Antonio was ignored making him feel "nonexistent."
In an interview with "Old Man and the Three" podcast, DeRozan spoke about his time with the Spurs admitting he struggled with confidence during those three seasons and the team's lack of national recognition bothered him.
"I felt like I was wiped off the map," DeRozan said. "That took a toll, especially every single year going to the [East] conference finals, conference semifinals, competing, winning 50-plus games, to all of the sudden, you don't exist."
During the interview, DeRozan did reiterate he grew as a player as a Spur and had outstanding performances.
However, it was not enough for him and feels he did not receive the recognition because he was playing in San Antonio.
"I had great games. I developed in a lot of great ways as a basketball player but in the same token, I just felt nonexistent for those years," added DeRozan. "It wasn't like we were on TV, we weren't competing. There was so much to it that was a struggle."
Said DeRozan: "I just felt like I was irrelevant."
During his time as a Spur, DeRozan was not named an NBA All-Star, and the team was hardly shown on nationally broadcasted games. The team also made the postseason once in 2019 versus Denver.
That was something he grew accustomed to with the Raptors before the trade to the Spurs.
To his credit, he was a professional throughout his time in San Antonio, served in a mentor role for the young players, and never demanded a trade.
He also did not leave the Spurs empty-handed once his contract was set to end.
He was traded to the Bulls for Thaddeus Young, a future first-round pick, and two future second-round picks.
And Popovich did sing DeRozan's praises once his time in San Antonio was over.
As a member of the Bulls, he made an All-Star squad for the first time since his days in Toronto and is averaging 27.9 points per game.