Holly MacKenzie

Holly Mackenzie

Holly MacKenzie is a lover of all things basketball, especially rookies and underdogs. She also enjoys the games, stories and triumphs of Stephen Jackson and Shaun Livingston. Getting her start interning for SLAM, the basketball Bible, her grandmother still has an issue of the magazine sitting on the mantle because it was the first time her granddaughter's name appeared in the masthead. The draft class of '96 holds a special place in her heart and she is currently wondering why she is writing in the third-person. For this slip-up, Holly is blaming the influence of LeBron James and The Decision and is wondering if this will result in James putting her on his list of haters. If so, she'll use this opportunity to say that it's all love over here, LBJ.

Recent Posts

Photo via @W_Maxey

Look familiar? Here’s a Nike ad featuring Jonas Valanciunas that is pretty much identical to the KICKS cover of Rajon Rondo that dropped last month. You all know how much I love Rondo (and pretty much every other point guard), but I’ve got to go with this billboard of Jonas. How baller is this? Who needs the NBA to be on a billboard? Not Mr. Valanciunas.

Many thanks to Wendell Maxey who has been covering all things Valanciunas for the past few weeks in Lithuania. If you are not already following him on Twitter, check him at @w_maxey and do that now. It’s nice to see someone who isn’t a Raptors writer or a Lithuanian be so excited for Raptors fans to get Valanciunas. In addition to Maxey’s excitement, Fran Fraschilla has also been very pro-Jonas via his Twitter account.

All of this makes me pretty pumped, too. Go ahead, get excited.*

*Just remember that he is very young and will need time to develop and adjust to the NBA game. As long as you’ve got that, go crazy!

While we’ve all been dialed in on Lithuania and Jonas Valanciunas, Andrea Bargnani has been growing out a beard and doing some things. For example:

Yes. I’m as pleasantly surprised as you. Bargs throwing it down on Boris Diaw. Bargnani continued to play well for Italy, finishing with a game-high 22 points to go with five rebounds, an assist and a blocked shot. Unfortunately for Bargnani, Italy ended up losing the game against France, 91-84. Still, an aggressive Bargnani is always a beautiful sight for Raptors fans. #FearTheBeard Bargnani style. It works.

(h/t to @outsidethenba for the sweet vid)

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.

We posted the first part of our convo with DeMar DeRozan on Friday afternoon. While that part was about looking back on last season, this one is about the L-word. No, not love or like or anything nice, I’m talking about this damn lockout. Here’s DeRozan on the possibility of going overseas, why the rookies are really losing out and when he realized that he’d be without his best friend when/if the lockout ends this season.

HM: So, about this lockout, have you talked to anyone for advice?

DD: I talked to a few guys and they just prepared me, telling me what to do, how to prepare. Hopefully it turns out for the best, but just be prepared for the worst at the end of the day. A lot of players that had been through it before.

HM: Have you spoken with anyone besides NBA vets about the situation?

DD: Coaches, old coaches. Even the fans, a lot of older guys who had been through the lockout, not necessarily players, people who remembered the lockout in ’99, when it took place. Cuttino Mobley has actually been talking me through it a lot. He’s been giving me a lot of advice and everything.

HM: What’s the main thing they tell you?

DD: Save your money.

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photo via @jose3030

While we posted a Q/A with DeMar DeRozan over at TBJ earlier this week, it’s time to start rolling out a series of posts from a lengthy phone conversation we recently had. If you’ve watched Raptors scrums during the season or even read quotes from DeRozan, you know he’s generally a man of few words. He’s pretty cool and quiet.

Maybe it’s the summer and not having to talk to media every day at practice, or maybe I just caught him on a day when he felt like chatting, but DeRozan and I talked for nearly an hour about everything under the sun that is related to basketball (and music. and The Wire). It was really fun to see some of his thoughts on the past season, his game, the future, and this current lockout situation.

One quote I can’t help but direct your attention to is his response to playing against Kobe and the Lakers. DeRozan’s love for this game is great. He’s obsessed with becoming the best he can be because the game means so much to him. Toronto is lucky to have a young guy who respects the history of the game so much. It’s pretty awesome.

Here’s part one, where we look back on the season that was.

HM: Now that you’ve had some time to reflect back on the year, what are you most proud of with respect to your own game?

DD: How much I was able to improve in such a short period of time. I was in high school, then to college, to the NBA. You have to adjust and learn so fast. That’s one thing about my game that I really take seriously. Just how much I want to get better at the end of each day.

HM: Do you think people sometimes underestimate how fast it happens, that transition to becoming a pro? Is it tougher than people think?

DD: Yeah, it’s definitely tougher than people think (laughs). People don’t realize how hard it is going out there with older guys that probably have families, have kids and you’re the young’n out there and you haven’t been through half the stuff they’ve been through in the league. Then there’s the business standpoint, there’s just so much and we’re behind and we’re trying to keep up and learn every single day. That’s the tough part, just keeping up because it’s definitely not easy.

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