An inside look at how the Bulls’ DeMar DeRozan keeps drawing fouls

It’s not just a strategy the veteran relies on from game-to-game, it’s an art form. One the requires thousands of hours not only working on his own skill, but studying his enemies.

SHARE An inside look at how the Bulls’ DeMar DeRozan keeps drawing fouls
Bulls forward DeMar DeRozan reacts after a no-call  during a game against the Hawks.

Bulls forward DeMar DeRozan reacts after a no-call during a game against the Hawks.

Hakim Wright Sr./AP

ATLANTA — Hawks forward Jalen Johnson tried to stay on the ground, as a lot of young NBA players do. But as soon as he jumped into the air near DeMar DeRozan’s arm in the third quarter Sunday night against the Bulls, it was over. The whistle blew, and DeRozan was again headed to the free-throw line.

Shame on Bogdan Bogdanovic, who has played professionally overseas for more than a decade and has been in the NBA since 2017. He should have known better. Yet, when DeRozan got the ball with half a second left in overtime and the Hawks up by two, Bogdanovic failed to avoid hitting DeRozan on the arm and committed the ultimate sin: a foul beyond the three-point line.

DeRozan doesn’t discriminate. Young player, five-year veteran, old man at the YMCA . . . they’re all vulnerable. He has taken the nickname “King of the Fourth” because of his penchant for late-game heroics, but he’s also a king at drawing fouls.

“I’ve seen it so many times, for so many years, but, yeah, it still surprises me that he’s getting guys like he does,” Bulls center Nikola Vucevic said. “It’s hard because you have to contest, but he’s so good at setting it up. When they jump on the pump fake, it’s like, ‘Why? He’s been doing this for years. Why are you still falling for it?’ . . . It’s just really hard to defend because you want to get the stop so bad, and he just takes you there.”

Then he leaves you to plead your case with an official while he’s making his way to the free-throw line.

As of Monday, DeRozan has gone to line 211 times this season, fifth-most in the NBA. Last season, he finished third.

“He’s been doing it for such a long time, and he’s got a really unique ability to play in these tight spaces and recognize where he has advantages in tight spaces,” coach Billy Donovan said.

But that only scratches the surface. DeRozan not only understands spacing and his own ability but also studies his opponents and their habits when guarding him, a lesson he learned from his idol, the late Kobe Bryant.

“Each time, every defender, each guy,” DeRozan said. “It’s easier to get young guys because if you ever watch when I play young guys, I go right to it. Every person that guards me, whether they’re long, aggressive, quick, whatever, I put all that into consideration when I’m playing against guys.”

That means he’s both watching film and building an in-game mental index to determine how to get defenders to bite. And at some point, maybe with everything on the line, eventually someone will.

Bogdanovic found that out.

“Spots [on the floor], knowing the clock, knowing your angles, knowing ways to get your shot off, gauging how a defender is going to guard you . . . it’s so much that goes into it,” DeRozan said. “I wish it was just one thing, but it’s countless things I use to draw fouls. It comes with an IQ of doing it so long.”

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