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DeMar DeRozan’s Revenge Tour is off to a Hell of a Start

Chicago Bulls

DeMar DeRozan has always been a good player. Often even a great one. For example, over his last five seasons in Toronto, he averaged 23.4 points per game with 4.5 rebounds and 4.2 assists per contest. The stretch was good enough to earn himself four All-Star nods, cementing himself as one of the league’s primer forwards.

But for as great of a player as he developed into for the Raptors, the organization didn’t see him as the guy to help them win an NBA championship. So in 2018, DeRozan was shipped to San Antonio in exchange for Kawhi Leonard, who ultimately led the Raptors to their first-ever NBA title, one that eluded DeRozan.

And after that, DeRozan fell off the radar, or at least that was the perception he understood coming into this season.

After scoring 38 points in a blowout of the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday night, DeRozan admitted that he’s playing with plenty of ammunition when it comes to motivation this season. Specifically, the 32-year-old mentioned the conversation around his fit with the new-look, implying he saw plenty of the comments that called him the worst free-agent signing in basketball.

“People saying I was washed for the last few years. The narrative of ‘won’t fit’ – I can find all types of chips that I use as my motivation. I just want to be a winner and enjoy this ride.”

Let’s be honest with each other for a second: Even if you didn’t think the DeRozan signing was as bad as the rest of the industry appeared to believe, you probably didn’t think he’d be this good for the Bulls this quickly, right?

The Los Angeles Lakers certainly didn’t think that he would be this good. Before the 2021 NBA Draft, DeMar DeRozan’s agent Aaron Goodwin worked with the Spurs to get a sign-and-trade done that would send DeRozan home, to Los Angeles. Instead, the Lakers ultimately traded for Russell Westbrook on the day of the draft, sending Kyle Kuzma as the headliner of the Washington return, ending any chances of the Spurs doing a sign-and-trade with the Lakers.

“I felt like going to the Lakers was a done deal and that we were going to figure it out. I was going to come home,” DeRozan told Yahoo Sports’s Chris Haynes. “The business side of things just didn’t work out. A couple of things didn’t align. It didn’t work out. It’s just part of the business, part of the game. My next option was definitely Chicago. So, looking back at it, it worked out well.

“But there’s always motivation. It may be just to come home and play in front of friends and family, competing against teams you grew up watching. There are all sorts of motivations that you carry and you try to channel that energy into the game.

With his hometown Lakers off the table, DeRozan’s agent began working on a sign-and-trade that would send the All-Star to Chicago. And, as the man said, that decision worked out rather well.

In DeRozan’s SoCal homecoming the last two nights, he’s scored 73 points, with 38 against the Lakers on Monday and 35 against the Clippers on Sunday. DeRozan shot 27-of-39 (69.2%) from the field, 3-of-6 from three, and 16-of-17 from the free-throw line the last two nights.

DeRozan’s hot start (26.9 points per game) has him third in the NBA in scoring, trailing only Steph Curry (28.1) and Kevin Durant (29.6) for the league’s top spot. Combine that with his 5.4 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game, and this might be the 32-year-old’s best season yet*. It’s certainly his best start, and it’s certainly got him in the conversation for that three-letter trophy that no Bull has won since Derrick Rose and Michael Jordan before him.

*DeRozan’s best full-season scoring mark came during the 2016-17 campaign when he finished with 27.3 points per game for the Raptors.

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

DeRozan, a heralded mid-range magician, is doing his best work by the numbers this season, shooting a career-best 53.1 percent on two-point field goals, 54 percent on shots three to ten feet from the rim, and 53.3 percent on shots 10 to 16 feet from the rim. DeRozan is also shooting a career-best 37.1 percent on three-point attempts.

Many claimed that DeRozan was a bad fit in Chicago. They said he couldn’t co-exist with Zach LaVine and that there wouldn’t be enough touches to go around. And so on. But in reality, LaVine and DeRozan seem to be the perfect pairing. They have combined for 60 points in four games this season, twice in the last two nights, with the duo scoring a combined 128 points in victories over the Clippers and the Lakers. All things considered, it’s hard to ask for much more out of your two-star players.

The performance, the fit, and the leadership that DeRozan has brought to this Bulls team have fueled the team’s red-hot start (NBA dot com has them as the second-best team in the entire league). So if DeRozan’s goal was to silence his doubters this season, he’s pretty much accomplished that feat in just 14 games, perhaps going from the perceived worst value signing of the summer to maybe even the best.



Author: Patrick K. Flowers

Patrick is a Staff Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @PatrickKFlowers.