DENVER - It's been four years since the Raptors had a representative in the All-Star Game.
DeMar DeRozan, a 20-year-old rookie at the time, remembers it well.
"I was here when Chris Bosh was the last guy to go," said DeRozan, now 24 in his fifth NBA season, less than two hours after receiving the news.
A first-time All-Star, DeRozan got the nod Thursday evening when the NBA named the Raptors guard to the Eastern Conference squad as a reserve.
"I work extremely hard every off-season to try and be the best player that I can be," he said proudly. "Just to be a part of All-Star Weekend is something you dream of. I remember being a kid watching All-Star Weekend and wishing to be a part of it. To see your dreams come true definitely means a lot."
DeRozan, the fourth ever Raptor selected to the midseason showcase, which will take place in New Orleans on Feb. 16, was hardly surprised to find out his selection had been made official. He had expected it.
The texts from family and friends started to come in as the Raptors' plane landed in Denver, shortly after the announcement had been made live on TNT. Houston Rockets All-Star guard James Harden called to congratulate him, John Wall of the Washington Wizards, also an Eastern reserve, sent a text. The first call he made was to his fiancé and his infant daughter back in Toronto.
"That was cool," he said of what had to be a special moment.
It's a moment, an achievement that didn't come overnight. He's put in the work and his growth as a player, a leader and as a man reflects that.
"He's worked at it [and] he deserves it," said Dwane Casey, who has coached DeRozan in three of his five seasons. "Every year I've been here he has improved. He has brought something new back after every summer. I'm so happy and proud of him as a young man watching him grow."
DeRozan, the ninth overall pick in the 2009 NBA draft, is 11th in the league in scoring, fourth in the East, and averaging career highs in points (21.8), rebounds (4.7) and assists (3.6).
The Raptors' iron man has missed the club's previous two games with an ankle injury, but he's still only missed 10 contests in his career, with two full seasons under his belt. Since the trade of Rudy Gay, DeRozan has blossomed in his new role.
DeRozan has recorded five or more assists in 12 of the 43 contests he's appeared in this season. He accomplished that feat 12 times all of last year and five times total in his first three seasons combined. He has already grabbed five or more rebounds 23 times this season, something he did in 19 games during the 2012-13 campaign.
"I'm so happy for him, man," said snubbed teammate Kyle Lowry. "It just shows the hard work that he's put in. It's great for our team, it's great for the organization, it's great for the city, it's great for the country."
Of course, the news wasn't entirely positive. Lowry, in the middle of a career season, was left off the All-Star roster.
The 27-year-old point guard - widely considered to be the most notable name missing from the East team - stood in the lobby of the Raptors' Denver hotel, looking ahead to his mid-Febrary vacation. He too was not surprised by the result of the voting and if he was disappointed by it, he didn't show it.
"I'm alright," said Lowry, averaging career-highs in points (16.8), assists (7.6) and three-point shooting (41 per cent) this season. "I'll be on a beach somewhere hanging out. I'll watch the All-Star game and cheer for (DeRozan)."
Lowry is coming off of back-to-back 30-plus point games for the first time in his eight-year career, however both performances came after the coaches submitted their ballots for All-Star reserves on Sunday.
Casey has spent the better part of the last month campaigning for both of his guards, hoping to get both voted in, but expecting to only get the one.
Why was Lowry left out? Politics, most likely. He and DeRozan may have split votes from coaches who were only willing to vote for one Raptor. Coaches trying to get their own guy in - unable to vote for their own players, by rule - may have thrown their votes to others, less likely to make it. Then there's Lowry's reputation for being, well, prickly on occasion.
However, the numbers speak for themselves, or at least they should have. Lowry leads the East in assists in January, averaging 8.3. He's also hit more threes this month (49) than any player in the league, shooting them at a 46 per cent clip. He's among the league-best in assist-to-turnover ratio and he has the second highest PER (player efficiency rating) of any guard in the conference.
"I am disappointed for Kyle because he is playing like an All-Star," Casey said. "He is one of the best point guards in the league right now and hopefully this doesn't deter him from his continuing his journey to being the best in the league and proving people wrong."
Instead, the Nets' Joe Johnson made the cut. Johnson is averaging 15.7 points, his lowest mark since 2002-03, his second season in the league. He's only the second All-Star voted in by the coaches with a below-average PER since 2003.
"I'm going to keep grinding no matter what, All-Star or not," Lowry said. "I'm always going to work hard and continue to be the best player I can be to help my team win."
"Honestly I didn't even worry about it," he continued. "We didn't get two, doesn't matter, we got one and that's a big statement for our team. [DeRozan's] going to represent our team and he's going to represent us well."
DeRozan joins Johnson, Chris Bosh of the Miami Heat, Wall, the Indiana Pacers' Roy Hibbert, Joakim Noah of the Chicago Bulls and the Atlanta Hawks' Paul Millsap on the East squad, along with starters LeBron James and Dwyane Wade of the Heat, Indiana's Paul George, Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks and the Cleveland Cavaliers' Kyrie Irving.