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San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has been a big proponent of players with a team-first attitude.
It’s how the Spurs approach the draft and why they were able to find players such as Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and even Kawhi Leonard with less-than-glamorous picks, Popovich once told Amico Hoops.
While the Spurs didn’t draft DeMar DeRozan, they did acquire him in a trade for Leonard, and the star shooting guard does seem to fit the Spurs’ philosophy.
“Basically, he’s gotten over himself,” Popovich told the Los Angeles Times. “That’s something I’ve said for 20 years. People who have gotten over themselves, you can tell after three minutes of conversation whether it’s about them or they understand the group.
“If you’ve gotten over yourself, you’re more ready to be part of a group, be part of a team, enjoy someone else’s success, feel responsible to somebody else, teammate to teammate, and not want to let them down. “You can tell that very quickly.”
The Spurs have had somewhat of an uneven start, for them anyway, winning half of their first 14 games. DeRozan is averaging 25.6 points, 6.3 rebounds and 6.3 assists in his first season with the team.
“When the trade first happened, he was pretty dejected. He was not a happy camper,” Popovich said. “And I didn’t know him personally, so I wanted to make him feel like he was at home.”
DeRozan has fit in very well, leading a team that also features veterans such as LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Gay in scoring. Right now, though, the Spurs are waiting to overcome the losses of injured guards Dejounte Murray and rookie Lonnie Walker IV.
Either way, DeRozan credits a conversation with Popovich as the reason he was able to overcome his initial feelins of shock following the trade from the Toronto Raptors.
“The night when I got traded, he made it known to me: ‘We didn’t trade you; we traded for you. We wanted you.’ Just hearing those words from him made everything else, from there on out, as easy as possible,” DeRozan said.