It was so DeMar DeRozan.
On a much-needed night off Thursday, the veteran forward still made his way 137 miles south to the University of Illinois to be there for Bulls teammate Ayo Dosunmu, whose number the Illini retired.
The show of support didn’t surprise Bulls coach Billy Donovan in the slightest.
“It’s not like it’s right around the corner,’’ Donovan said. “The selflessness for him to share in that speaks to who DeMar is as a teammate. . . . A lot of people don’t see the investment DeMar makes — and not only DeMar, but the rest of our guys make — inside to each other. That speaks volumes of who he is as a teammate and who he is as a guy.”
DeRozan has been Dosunmu’s mentor and biggest supporter since Day 1 of training camp, almost warning the rest of the NBA of what was coming from the second-round pick.
“I was a fan of his before we were even teammates, while he was here [in Champaign], what they did last year and the year before that,” DeRozan told a reporter in attendance Thursday. “So for him to be my teammate, me understanding the importance of getting your jersey retired, it was definitely an honor for me to be here and see him make that happen.”
And it was another example of the chemistry Donovan continues to celebrate amid the Bulls’ hot start this season.
“We’ve just got guys that are really approachable — they’re all really good guys,’’ he said. “They’re all selfless, and they want to do what’s best for the team. When you have that kind of mentality, it’s easy to create chemistry. It’s coming back after Labor Day, it’s spending time, it’s going out to dinners. All those things add up to where you get to know each other beyond just playing in between the lines.
“[A few years ago], I went out to watch the Seattle Seahawks practice, and I talked to [cornerback] Richard Sherman after practice, and I was talking to him about the defense, and I asked, ‘How come you guys were so close, and why was it you guys played so hard for each other?’ He said, ‘Because I know every single guy on that defense. I know their wives, I know their kids, and when you have those kinds of relationships, you’re playing for that next guy.’ I couldn’t agree any more with him on that.”
Thomas earns his keep
Before Friday’s game against the Wizards, the Bulls guaranteed guard Matt Thomas’ contract for the rest of the season — an easy decision, Donovan said.
“There was a period of time where he was clearly out of the rotation,” Donovan said. “And then with some of these health and safety protocols and different guys going down . . . I’ve always said this about Matt: He’s always kept himself ready. He’s reliable, he puts a lot of work in to keep himself ready, and he’s an outstanding shooter, a great locker room guy, great team guy. I’m happy for him because he’s put a lot of work in.”