We’ve talked with DeMar DeRozan on summer training and on the lockout, now we’ve got DeRozan talking about the greatest love of his life. Yep, this beautiful game that has us all under a spell. While most guys who are playing professional basketball recognize how lucky they are and also enjoy it, there are those that really, truly and completely obsessed with this game. These are the players you want on your team. They’re the ones who work for the ridiculous amounts of money they’re paid and they are the ones who make you feel good about rooting for them, regardless of the wins and losses.

They spend hours in the gym, more hours in the weight room and then time in front of a tv watching tape, asking questions and also taking criticisms to get better at the game that we all love. I spoke with DeRozan about the game. Not the fame and the money and the hype, but the passion and appreciation he has for basketball and all it has given him and his family.

I’m glad he gets it. It’ll serve him well throughout his career. It also makes it extremely easy to root for him.

HM: How does the lockout affect how you approach to training this summer?

DD: I’ve been approaching it the same way I would any other summer. Just trying to do different stuff. Playing more open runs. I usually do playing with pros, find somewhere to pro. Just try to stay playing basketball as much as I can.

HM: What do you think it says when guys show up to play streetball games? Is that a way to show your appreciation for the game?

DD: I think it’s shown through the summer, especially the past month, everyone in the Drew League, Kevin Durant at Rucker Park, the Goodman League, the leagues in Seattle, just everywhere. Pros are out playing against guys and I think it’s a cool thing. For the fans, some of them are still able to see us working on our games, working against other guys. I love playing. I don’t care who it’s against.

HM: For you, what’s it like playing in the Drew League after growing up in L.A. and watching guys play every summer?

DD: That’s definitely cool. I feel like I’m back in high school again. Just being out there and playing in front of the fans. They get to see players they never get to see in person without paying a lot of money. That’s the good thing about it. That’s been a big positive for us. It really shows the love for the game and how much the game of basketball means to all of us.

HM: Is it fun to get to play in front of some of the same people who have watched you play since high school and have watched you grow into the player you are today?

DD: It’s nuts. It’s something else. It’s definitely a cool thing, man. Especially…I’ve been playing in it since the eighth grade. Seeing all the pros playing in it, people coming out to support it every week. So many guys, that’s so big. It feels good being a part of it. Being able to show that NBA players can go anywhere and play. It doesn’t have to be a fancy arena.

HM: So you were always the kid at the gym watching the older guys play?

DD: I always used to go watch. I always remember Baron Davis playing, a lot of pros. I started playing when I was in the eighth or ninth grade and ever since then I’ve been playing in it.

HM: And now you’re playing with Baron.

DD: It’s definitely strange. It still trips me out to this day. Just to realize how far I’ve come with the game of basketball, it’s definitely a blessing.

HM: When you stop and think about everything the game has given you, the life it has allowed for you, your family and all of the people you love, what is that like?

DD: Oh yeah. I think about that every single day. It’s something special with the game, what any sport can do for somebody. How far it can take you, the opportunity it can give you in life. I think a lot of people don’t really realize that. If you’re good at it, it can take you so far. It’s not just for you, it’s for your family, your friends, for everybody. You’re making a difference in a lot of people’s lives. That’s definitely a blessing.

HM: What’s it like for you when you’re able to bring your family to Toronto during the season and they get to watch you living your dream, after you’ve all worked for it for so long?

DD: Man. It’s definitely crazy. Your family with your jerseys on, cheering for you? It’s definitely something special. It’s something you can’t put into words. When you go out there in front of thousands of people and your family is out there watching and you’re on tv playing, it’s mindboggling. It’s a dream come true, still.

HM: Will your parents ever call or text or critique you after your games?

DD: I could have the best game ever and my dad still criticizes me. That’s just my dad. He always wants me to be better than my last game. I could be better than ever and he is always going to be hard on me. He’s the reason why I’m the type of player I am today and my Mom? My mom always calls me if something happens. If I get hurt or fall or something, she always calls me after the game to make sure I’m alright, telling me to make sure nobody hits me again.

HM: Some guys say they don’t watch a lot of basketball during the season…You call yourself a junkie. Are you a big fan of watching other NBA teams and players on the days you’re not playing yourself?

DD: I’m not good with a day without basketball or doing something basketball wise. Watching it, NBA, WNBA, whatever it is. My life is surrounded by basketball.

Here’s hoping he gets to play some basketball games that matter sooner than later.

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