Every city gets the star it deserves and, for its sins, Toronto has been given them.
Going back a few years, it's all been guys somewhere on the surly spectrum, ranging from extremes of taciturnity to active hostility.
Over the last decade, we've had Andrea Bargnani (effective mute) to Roy Halladay (mute by choice) to Jose Bautista (smouldering mute) to Mats Sundin (merry mute) to Chris Bosh (not quite mute enough) to Dion Phaneuf (aggressively mute) to Phil Kessel (plain mute).
In a town that needs constant reassurance and kind words, Toronto's boldface names are the dads who sit there in their armchairs, night after night, silently nursing the same glass of scotch.
They only talk when you get between them and the TV. In each case, with relative differences, it's been an imperfect pairing.
Maybe this is why Toronto turns so quickly on its heroes. They never get properly attached to them in the first place.
Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan is here to heal those wounds. By allowing himself to talk, he's teaching a gun-shy city to love again.
DeRozan arrived just as the Raptors franchise was drifting off the ocean floor and into the Laurentian Abyss.
The previous two drafts in which they had first-round picks had not gone well, because of who they had gotten (Bargnani first overall in 2006) and who they hadn't (Roy Hibbert, taken in Toronto's spot in 2008, but handed over to Indiana via trade).
DeRozan was taken ninth in 2009, eliciting a widening variety of shoulder shrugs. The team needed a point guard. General manager Bryan Colangelo described DeRozan as a "raw physical talent" – which is NBA code for "not yet good at basketball."
DeRozan didn't help things much with his first post-draft Tweet: "Toronto here I come Air Canadas [sic] back."
If you want to have some Vince Carter in your game, that's one thing. Comparing yourself to him when you're a bit of a gamble coming out of an insubstantial draft? That's taping a Kick Me sign to your own back.
Nobody bothered. Bosh was still here and beginning the impossibly extended break-up that would spark so much animus. Bargnani was quickly coming into his full, unfettered Bargnani-ness. Watching him play was like watching a monkey smoke a cigarette – technically correct, but also completely wrong.
By comparison, DeRozan was too inoffensive to dislike.
He also wasn't much of a player. In a rare bout of calling things by their proper names, Colangelo had gotten it right. DeRozan was a project. He did precisely one thing well – slash to the hoop. If that's your only tactical gambit in the NBA, you're asking to have your head taken off at the shoulders.
He wasn't much of a personality either. DeRozan was more shoegaze than My Bloody Valentine. In interviews, he either scanned the floor or stared into the camera in that bug-eyed way we associate with live court TV links.
He was so amenable, you could talk him into just about any answer. The answer to every single thing was, "Most definitely."
DeRozan was just coping in-season. Every new facet to his game was added in the summer. You talk to a coach or a scout and everybody in the world has "work ethic." It's a meaningless blandishment. But DeRozan actually does.
Year by year, he added elements to his game, Meccano-style. He improved his shaky handle. His footwork got better. Though he'll never be great at it, he is now a committed and positionally adept defender. He added a jumper. Then he backed the jumper up behind the arc.
The numbers improved steadily. Still, DeRozan languished behind an uneasy smile, giving off the feeling of a man waiting for shoes – plural – to drop.
Colangelo traded for Rudy Gay, who was DeRozan's doppelganger in every way except the ones that matter. While Gay was busy undoing the team on the court and splitting it in the dressing room, DeRozan was suddenly a trade chip.
New GM Masai Ujiri saved DeRozan. He jettisoned Gay midway through last season. Suddenly the man who would not be a star became one.
The play was one thing. But over the course of a few short weeks, it was fascinating to watch a 24-year-old man grow a public personality by dint of sheer will.
This new DeRozan looks at you when he talks. He says things that include actual substance. He's funny.
Obviously, this has always been DeMar DeRozan. He just suddenly felt comfortable enough to let the rest of us in on the secret.
He's back at it. On Tuesday, the Raptors went through a grinding three-hour practice, the first of camp. This off-season, DeRozan turned his focus to three projects – Team USA, developing ambidextrousness and erecting a plinth-sized grudge.
In its preseason preview, ESPN didn't have him down as one of the top 15 shooting guards in the league. Sports Illustrated tapped him as the 61st best player in the NBA.
This was more than a slap. It was a reputational karate kick.
"I always need a reason to work as hard as I do. That's just another reason for me, honestly," DeRozan said. "I'll talk about this at the end of the season, and find out who wrote that and made the rankings."
You want to cut waste at City Hall? Make ESPN Toronto's exclusive provider of motivational material.
(Instead, the team had a U.S. Navy SEAL in to address the squad on Monday night. The hardened former combatant in question, Brent Gleeson, spent his journey north complaining on Twitter about Air Canada's first-class service.)
This was DeRozan at his new best. After three hours of drills, Kyle Lowry was itching to get his interview duties done with ("C'mon, guys. C'MON.").
DeRozan would've stood there for an hour. He likes to talk. As with the off-season work, the results show.
How did he practice left-handedness? By writing out his ABCs with his young daughter each day. Who's winning the penmanship battle?
"It's neck and neck," DeRozan purred.
Maybe in DeMar DeRozan, Toronto has finally found the amiable star it probably doesn't deserve, but would really like a chance to get to know.