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Tall tale or reality? Either way, Bulls’ DeMar DeRozan leads by example

After the win over Orlando on Monday, DeRozan said he got up 250 free throws before meeting with the media. Whether he made exactly that many or not in that amount of time can be debated. What isn’t up for debate, however, is his leadership in actions and words.

“We can’t be satisfied with anything,’’ the Bulls’ DeMar DeRozan said. “We work extremely hard, can’t take nothing for granted.”
“We can’t be satisfied with anything,’’ the Bulls’ DeMar DeRozan said. “We work extremely hard, can’t take nothing for granted.”
Quinn Harris/Getty Images

Bulls forward DeMar DeRozan was unusually late to the postgame news conference Monday.

He took to the court at the United Center after the Bulls’ 102-98 victory against the Magic to work on his free-throw shooting while the floor was being taken apart for the Blackhawks’ game Tuesday.

The idea that DeRozan made 250 free throws between the final horn and his media session is tough to swallow, but his legend only grows in these parts, so why spoil a good story?

‘‘Usually, I always go back at night, get my rhythm, make a couple of hundred free throws at least in between games,’’ DeRozan said of his process and why he went back out there after the game. ‘‘With back-to-backs the last two weeks, I haven’t been able to keep up with my rhythm. And it showed [Monday]. . . . No way I was going to go home feeling comfortable shooting [like] that.’’

DeRozan went 7-for-13 from the line against the Magic but really was bothered by his 4-for-7 effort in the fourth quarter. That’s money time for the ‘‘King of the Fourth.’’

DeRozan regularly goes to the Advocate Center late at night to work on his game, so taking the court at the United Center after the victory Monday wasn’t out of his comfort zone. If anything, it continued to show how serious he is about achieving big things this season.

‘‘Just trying to be a creature of habit,’’ DeRozan said. ‘‘What’s that thing? They say it takes 21 days to create a habit or something like that. So I try to use that same mentality when it comes to basketball.’’

DeRozan said he does a set of 10 free throws and starts over if he misses any of the 10. He said he got 25 sets in after the game Monday.

‘‘We can’t be satisfied with anything,’’ DeRozan said. ‘‘We work extremely hard, can’t take nothing for granted. We understand our task [is] to continue to keep getting better. Yeah, we won some games. We’re on a winning streak, but we’re not satisfied with none of that.’’

Not even with an eight-game winning streak, the Bulls’ longest since March 2012?

‘‘No,’’ DeRozan said. ‘‘Move on to the next one.’’

That’s why DeRozan has catapulted himself to instant team leader this season: He not only leads with words but with actions.

If the best player on the team is putting in extra work at age 32 and in his 13th NBA season, younger players had better take notice and follow suit.

The nice thing about the Bulls is that they have. This is a team whose players arrived in Chicago weeks before training camp started and began running with one another. It’s also a team that preaches hard work.

DeRozan wasn’t the only Bulls player to put in extra work the last few weeks. Center Nikola Vucevic was in a shooting slump in November and into December and said the only way he knew to get out of it was to work harder. That’s exactly what he did.

‘‘We do have a team with a lot of hard-working guys,’’ Vucevic said. ‘‘That’s the only way you become a good player individually and then for the team to work. I think we have guys who understand that.’’