NEW ORLEANS - When DeMar DeRozan found out he had made his first NBA All-Star Game two weeks ago, receiving the news on the team plane upon landing in Denver, he wasnt surprised but instead described the feeling as a surreal one. Ito Smith Jersey . Now - 48 hours before the main event - the Raptors leading scorer is soaking it all in, still a little starry-eyed, mindful of how far he has come and what its taken to get him to this point. "Its starting to become real now," he told TSN.ca Friday afternoon, as the All-Star participants gathered in the cavernous ballroom of a New Orleans hotel for their annual media day circus. "I think when I really go out there, put the jersey on and head to the arena Sunday evening [it will really hit me]." The 24-year-old DeRozan does not have to look very far to find mementos of his NBA journey, the closest one will be sitting adjacent to him on the Eastern Conference teams bench when the game tips off on Sunday. Heat forward and fellow All-Star reserve Chris Bosh was one of the first to pull DeRozan aside upon arrival in New Orleans this weekend. Bosh - the Raptors last representative in the All-Star Game, four years ago - left for Miami following DeRozans rookie season. He, as much as anyone, can attest to DeRozans growth as a player and the message he had for his former teammate was just that. "Im proud of you," he told the Raptors guard. "It means a lot," DeRozan said of Boshs kind words. "We were just laughing because I remember being the only rookie, 19-years-old on the Raptors, him being a star and seeing all the things he was going through when he was [in Toronto] and how he had to carry the team on his back." "After he left I had to step up and learn. Its just crazy, we were laughing at how fast time flies. It seems like yesterday I was that rookie who wouldnt shoot the ball and passed it to Chris every time." There was pressure on DeRozan to contribute right out of the gate, starting 65 games - most of them alongside Bosh - as a rookie in Toronto. He was, to his own admission, a deer in the NBA headlights. He attempted fewer than seven shots per game - which more than doubled in his second year, without Bosh in the lineup - yet averaged less than an assist in over 21 minutes a night. At the time, becoming an All-Star was not even on his radar, his focus was self-preservation and proving his worth as an NBA player. "Youre always stuck in the moment," he remembered. "You stay on course with your everyday tasks and you work towards something like this, you just work every single day. I knew if I just stay consistent, stay focused and didnt get down on myself too much I knew I had a chance." Five seasons later - one year removed from signing a long-term contract extension - his work ethic has not wavered, if anything its gotten stronger, more relentless. "Im proud of DeMar," said Terrence Ross, who has become a protégé of DeRozans. "Hes put in so much work. To see him here is like, man, I wish we could give him more for all hes done. Im just happy hes here getting a chance to prove to the world what he can do." Now that hes here, now that hes come this far he knows not to take it for granted. DeRozan - who is tied for fourth in the league in minutes played, also nursing an ankle injury - could have used the time off but youll never get him to admit it. Hes honoured to be representing the third-place, division-leading Raptors on the world stage. He was caught off guard when his agent called to deliver the leagues invitation to participate in Saturdays Skills Challenge, an event usually reserved for point guards, one thats out of his comfort zone. Originally he declined but it didnt take much prodding to convince him to change his mind. "Everybody doesnt get a chance to be a part of All-Star Weekend," he said when he was announced as a participant last week. "The big thing for me is to go out there and have fun. I think it will be cool to go out there and represent my team as much as I can and you never know, I might mess around and win it." DeRozans attitude is a refreshing change of pace from many of todays star players who decline invitations to participate in All-Star Saturday Night each year to preserve their energy, prevent injury or simply because they feel like theyve graduated from it. Sure, LeBron still wont dunk but perhaps times are changing after all. For the first time since 1988 three All-Stars will compete in the Slam Dunk contest, one of them, Damian Lillard will participate in all five major events this weekend. His rationale is on par with DeRozans. "Im happy Im really a part of the weekend," said Lillard, another first-time All-Star. "Ive gotten great reception from the fans. Fans are excited about having someone who is participating in the All-Star Game being in all the events." DeRozan is considered a long shot to defeat Lillard, the reigning champion, in Saturdays Skills Challenge but hes not putting too much pressure on himself. For him, the weekend is all about embracing a new opportunity, his first real All-Star opportunity. Custom Atlanta Falcons Jerseys . HABS HEADED TO CONFERENCE FINAL The Montreal Canadiens scored early in Game Seven, built a lead and protected it well on their way to a 3-1 series-clinching win over the Boston Bruins. While this game or series isnt necessarily a referendum on the value of fourth lines, the Canadiens certainly benefitted from production lower down their forward depth chart. Justin Bethel Jersey . 1. CAVALIERS: At 19-20, theyre a mess. Watched the game Tuesday night vs. Phoenix and their defence was poor (107 points and 52 per cent for Suns). 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