DeMar DeRozan eased his way into the interview room Sunday night wearing a black baseball cap backwards, his black backpack slung over his shoulder and his feelings still raw from losing.
He had found some joy in playing in the All-Star game in his backyard at Staples Center, a kid from Compton High and USC showing kids from his neighborhood what is possible.
But being on the Team Stephen team that suffered an agonizing 148-145 loss to Team LeBron was tough for DeRozan to swallow.
And the role he played in his team’s loss made it even more difficult.
He had been voted in as a starter from the Toronto Raptors, an Eastern Conference team.
But in the new All-Star game format, the top two vote-getters in the NBA balloting — Golden State’s Stephen Curry and Cleveland’s LeBron James — were allowed to choose players from any team, no matter if they were from the Eastern or Western conference. DeRozan was chosen for the Team Stephen team.
“Man, first of all, the loss was tough,” said DeRozan, who had 21 points on seven-for-13 shooting. “We are always upset that we lost. Like I said, it felt like a real game. I think for sure, keep this format. I think we laid the foundation tonight how well it works. I think it can’t do nothing but continue to get better.”
DeRozan was in position to put Team Stephen in a comfortable position.
But he made just one of two free throws with 40.2 seconds left, giving his team a 145-144 lead.
After James scored on a layup, DeRozan again was in a situation to help his team.
But he turned the ball over on a bad pass.
That led to Russell Westbrook — another L.A. product who went to Leuzinger High and UCLA — scoring a basket to give Team LeBron a 148-145 lead.
Team Stephen had one last opportunity, but Curry was double teamed and was unable to release a three-pointer. He passed the ball to DeRozan in the corner, but his three-point attempt came after the buzzer sounded.
After the game, DeRozan was reminded that the last two times the All-Star Game was played in L.A., the MVP award was won by Lakers — center Shaquille O’Neal (2004) and guard Kobe Bryant (2011), both of whom were considered de facto L.A. guys.
DeRozan was being mentioned for the most valuable player award for his team. It went to James.
“You just want to break my heart some more, huh?” DeRozan responded when asked that question. “Hey, just being out there was a blessing, man, honestly. Just being able to be part of that. If that would have happened, that would have happened, man. I’m just happy to be out there competing with them guys.”
There was pain for DeRozan in losing a game he wanted to win, but there was triumph in having a “dream come true” playing in an All-Star game in his community.
“This is one of the moments that I’m going to forever live with,” he said. “Being able to be a part of this, to come from where I come from and come out here and be a starter for an All-Star team in my hometown, it definitely was a dream come true.”