Jeff Dowtin Jr. was startled by the cameras that surrounded him as he walked toward the scrum of media members preparing to pepper him with questions for the first time this season.
Life in the NBA isn't something he's quite used to yet. At 25 years old, Dowtin is still a baby when it comes to the NBA. He's played in just 14 games over two seasons, spending the bulk of his professional career trying to work his way through the G League system.
That, however, might be changing. Dowtin hasn't played very much this season but with the injuries plaguing Toronto over the past few games, he's had enough time to start turning some heads. It started nearly two weeks ago when the 6-foot-3 point guard was thrust into crunch time minutes, tasked with locking down Jaden Ivey to clinch a victory over the Detroit Pistons, a job Dowtin executed flawlessly. Then, more recently against the Brooklyn Nets, Dowtin logged 21 minutes off the bench and was plus-8 in a 14-point loss.
"He's been pretty solid," Raptors coach Nick Nurse said Friday. "Obviously, he made a really big defensive play at the end of the game [against the Pistons] for us. ... He hasn't made mistakes, right, which is part of his role."
To Nurse, that's crucial for role players. It's not so much about the peaks of impressive playing time as it is an ability to be consistent and limit gaffs. Dowtin has done that more than adequately this year, turning the ball over just once in his 48 minutes on the court while playing exceptional defense at the other end.
As Dowtin acknowledged, it's helpful having so many veteran players who have been in his spot before. He, like Chris Boucher when the Canadian forward first broke into the league, was signed to a two-way deal this summer meaning he'll spend the bulk of the year with the Raptors 905, developing to become the next Fred VanVleet or Norman Powell.
"They’ve definitely been supportive. Even back in the summertime those guys have been pushing me and leading me," Dowtin said of his Raptors teammates. "They definitely give me advice almost every day, just telling me to stay consistent, stay in the gym and to be ready when your number’s called; there’s always opportunities in this league."
So far Dowtin has sized those opportunities and that usually means more will come. While Toronto has listed Fred VanVleet and Dalano Banton as questionable for Saturday night, Dowtin is showing he can handle his own at the NBA level and more chances should be on the horizon.