In hindsight, it’s nearly impossible to believe what DeMar DeRozan went through last offseason.
The 32-year-old didn’t just finish an All-NBA Second Team season with the second-most points scored in the NBA, he did it easily. And between breaking a Wilt Chamberlain record or becoming the first player to hit game-winning buzzer-beaters on consecutive nights, DeRozan played like nothing short of a superstar. But he sure didn’t feel like one in the weeks before his career-year tipped off.
In a recent appearance on The Draymond Green Show, DeRozan opened up about the shocking free agency that unfolded last summer. The four-time All-Star (at the time) – who become an even better player while with the San Antonio Spurs – saw a very limited market develop for his services. And the lack of interest had him questioning where his NBA career stood.
“I went a couple of days into free agency with still such a question mark,: DeRozan told Green. “Was I going to go somewhere on a one-year deal? What I going to take the minimum? Was it this, this, or this? The narrative of it put me in a f—ed up place, honestly … I was depressed. It put me in a depressed mindset because I didn’t know what was going to happen.”
While we all knew DeRozan would find a home, executives appeared to question how big of impact he could make on a winning team. His lack of 3-point shooting, poor defensive resume, and an aging body may have all been reasonable concerns. But enough not to hand a player of his stature a sizable multi-year deal?
DeRozan knew what he was worth. And, fortunately, so did the Bulls.
“There were certain moments where I had no f—ing clue what I was going to do,” DeRozan said. “When the Chicago thing came around and I made that happen, it was such a relief. But, at the same time, it angered me and put me in a very frustrating mental of ‘f— this.’ I’m about to demolish anything you’ve got to say about me. I’m not going to say nothing, I’m just going to work my ass off and I’m going to prove – not just for myself but for anyone who feels like they get counted out or doubted or get told they can’t do something.”
Once DeRozan put pen to paper, the disrespect only grew.
The critics of the Bulls’ decision and the construction of their roster didn’t fly over DeRozan’s head. He made clear to Green that it was these continued doubts that fueled the best basketball of his 13-year-long career. It’s hard not to commend him for turning something so negative into something a city desperately needed.
“I remember when I signed with Chicago, “worst free agent signing’ it was like, ‘that’s what you feel about me?’ So it was a vengeance, not just for myself, but for anyone that gets put in that situation because it’s so easy to fall victim to the bullsh-t they put onto you. That is so false.
You could lose confidence. You could doubt yourself. You could feel like maybe they right. But it’s like, no, I don’t care how much older I’m getting, it’s all about how much you put in, how much you love, and how much you’re willing to sacrifice to get better. And that was my whole approach, mentality, going into last season.”
I always assumed DeRozan’s offseason narrative lit a fire, but I didn’t quite realize how much it billowed. Rarely do we hear a player speak this vulnerably about the impact that off-the-court narratives can have on their mental state. The fact he was able to channel league-wide disrespect into the performance we just watched speaks volumes about the player the Bulls invested in.
Indeed, DeRozan speaks like the leader you want in your locker room. While Zach LaVine is expected to continue his rise up the league ranks, DeRozan will continue to be a pivotal part of what the organization is trying to build on and off the court. And, if you doubt that, good.
You can watch DeRozan’s full interview with Draymond Green below: