Bulls’ DeMar DeRozan reflects on how close he came to being a Laker
DeRozan has been linked to a return to play in his hometown several times in his career, but he never came as close as this offseason, which included phone calls with Lakers star LeBron James.
LOS ANGELES — Bulls forward DeMar DeRozan isn’t the type to dwell on what-might-have-beens. He rather would focus on what is.
Yes, he wanted to come back home to the Los Angeles area during the offseason to play for the Lakers, but it didn’t work out. It wasn’t the first time DeRozan, who grew up in Compton, was linked to the Lakers, but this time seemed to have some juice behind it.
Lakers star LeBron James reportedly got word out that he wanted DeRozan, the two spoke several times and the wheels started churning. The initial talks for a sign-and-trade between the Spurs and Lakers reportedly weren’t going well, however, then the Wizards let it be known they would be willing to move on from Russell Westbrook.
Just like that, a star was coming back home to play in Los Angeles, but it was Westbrook, not DeRozan.
Considering how much he has enjoyed his time with the Bulls so far, DeRozan couldn’t be more thrilled that it didn’t work out with the Lakers.
‘‘It almost happened, but what happens happens how I need it to happen,’’ DeRozan said. ‘‘I couldn’t be happier being in Chicago, honestly. So it works out 1000% perfect when it needs to.’’
The Bulls wouldn’t argue that.
Guard Zach LaVine has been dealing with an injured thumb, but DeRozan has been the Bulls’ best player this season, averaging a team-high 26.1 points and leading them with a 25.26 player efficiency rating.
Then there’s his leadership, which has shown itself in close games and tough moments that statistics can’t measure. Not bad for a 32-year-old veteran.
DeRozan also touched on the overwhelming emotion he felt as the Bulls took on both Los Angeles teams Sunday (Clippers) and Monday (Lakers).
‘‘It’s something I will never take for granted,’’ DeRozan said about playing in L.A. ‘‘Every time I came home, it was always an honor. This is the first time coming home and playing since my dad passed. He was at every game.’’
Guard Alex Caruso and his former Lakers teammates were well aware of the critics who wanted to diminish their 2020 championship because it came in the ‘‘bubble’’ in Orlando, Florida.
Now that he has had awhile to absorb all the Lakers accomplished in that playoff run, Caruso offered a response to those critics in his return to Los Angeles.
‘‘I obviously don’t give a [bleep] what anyone says about it, whether they thought it was hard or easier,’’ Caruso said. ‘‘You had to go out there and win the games under very difficult circumstances.
‘‘For me, the experience of being able to play in the playoffs, play at a high level, have to show up for important games, hit important shots, play defense, do all of that, then the mental part of it . . . I don’t care who understands the difficulty of that. That experience of going through that will serve me well for the rest of my career.’’
In the wake of center Nikola Vucevic testing positive for the coronavirus last week and going into the NBA’s health-and-safety protocol, coach Billy Donovan said members of the Bulls’ traveling party have had testing ramped up on them.
Testing is being done every game day right now, and that likely will continue for the rest of the trip with the hopes that Vucevic was an isolated case.