Homecomings can often reveal the organization’s and fan base’s true feelings about an ex-player and teammate. Wednesday night marked power forward DeMarre Carroll’s return, now in a Toronto Raptors uniform, to the Philips Arena where he signed a four year $60 million contract this past offseason.
Demarre was an NBA journeyman for the first six years of his career. He played for four different teams during his first six years and never averaged more than six points or 17 minutes per game.
However, it was in Atlanta that he found his home. His points and minutes almost doubled his career highs during his two years in a Hawks uniform, averaging close to 12 points and 32 minutes a game. He emerged as one of the better “three and D” players in the league and became known for his scrappy yet unselfish play that perfectly suits his nickname, “The Junkyard Dog.”
“Once you get an opportunity, you have to take advantage of it,” Carroll said before the game. “You don’t want to look back at it and say what if.”
Carroll has been extremely well-respected throughout the organization since his arrival in Atlanta. Before the game, various members of the local media pass through the locker room to say hello while he sorts through piles of game tickets to give to different friends and family members.
The recognition of his contributions continued when the game began.
“Playing with him for two years, you get used to him being [on] our side,” Hawks forward Paul Millsap said after the game. “Seeing him over there is a little weird.”
At the end of the first quarter, a video tribute to Carroll was followed by a standing ovation from the crowd.
“Emotions were high but it was great to be back out there,” Carroll said.
Despite the emotions, the Raptors found themselves down early and trailed by 14 at halftime. Carroll had a slow night, scoring only five points. While the offense struggled, defence allowed the Raptors to claw back into the game as they cut the lead to nine entering the fourth.
Then, Kyle Lowry took over. Scoring 22 of his 31 points in the fourth quarter, the Hawks had no answer for him. The Hawks poor shooting didn’t help a dismal 33 percent in the second half. The Raptors pulled away down the stretch, finishing off their strong fourth quarter outscoring the Hawks 39-20.
“We took the fight to them,” Said Carroll after his successful homecoming. Atlanta thanked DeMarre, welcoming him back with open arms, which showcased what a great member of the organization he was during his two years here.