DeMar DeRozan on upcoming Bulls season: "It's all about winning."

"It took me 13 years to get to the point that I’m at mentally, physically, emotionally... I think it’s just my best go-round."
by Sam Smith
Remind Me Later

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DeMar DeRozan has played in four NBA All-Star games. He's played in 58 NBA playoff games, including four times in Game 7s.

In the 2016 playoffs, he scored 30 and 28 points, respectively, in successive Game 7s before his Toronto Raptors were eliminated in the conference finals. The last time DeRozan was in the playoffs, in 2019 with the Spurs and in another Game 7, he led the Spurs in the final game in scoring and assists and was second in rebounds.

DeMar knows big time. He believes he sees it with the 2021-22 Bulls.

"I'm really looking forward to it tomorrow, the start of camp," the Bulls new free agent forward told reporters Monday. "The talent is there. I don't think I've played with as talented a team as I have since coming here. Now it's about just putting it together and me doing my part, being a veteran on the team, bringing it all together and helping it mesh a little quicker. There are a lot of great opportunities. I'm excited to be out there with those guys and just begin putting this all together."

The NBA's traditional pre-training camp media day is a time for optimism. No one has lost a game and everyone is going to run, rebound and defend. It wouldn't be surprising to see a display of ring sizers.

Not that this latest Bulls iteration has asked the city to put a hold on Grant Park for June.

But it's a team with experienced, accomplished and practiced veterans who wanted to join together in Chicago for an opportunity to reach the NBA heights that have eluded them. Now that is new here.

"Great, great group of guys first and foremost," said DeRozan, the 12-year veteran with a 20-point career scoring average. "The vibe and everything is definitely positive. I love that, first and foremost, especially the city, just energetic. I'm just excited being here. And great weather so far."

Of course, DeRozan played nine years in Toronto. Perhaps that's the secret in attracting high level basketball talent to Chicago.

Though having All-Stars like Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic probably had more to do with it. And one of the top young point guards in Lonzo Ball. DeRozan was something of the last piece the puzzle, the Bulls big free agent addition (sign-and-trade technically) after acquiring Vucevic and Ball to join LaVine, the latter on his way to an Olympic gold medal. It's a legitimate Big 3 for the Bulls, veterans still in their primes coming off high scoring seasons with experience at the biggest times. And now LaVine finally has some with his Olympic experience.

DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine pose during a Media Day

DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine pose during a Media Day

"I think (this is) for me, the best part of my career," said DeRozan. "With the knowledge that I've gained over the years, my perspective on how I approach the game, how I approach preparation, everything to the game. It took me 13 years to get to the point that I'm at mentally, physically, emotionally in approaching the game. So for me, I think it's just my best go-round. In my time in San Antonio (the last three seasons playing for Gregg Popovich), I learned so much more about myself as a player, what I was able and capable of doing. It grew me more as a leader. And this time around, it's just putting everything I've learned in my career all together. It's just put me at a different level physically and mentally."

DeRozan is slated to be the team's starting small forward, a physical interior scorer who is one of the league's most proficient wing players getting to the free throw line and a high percentage shooter, though primarily in the mid-range game. DeRozan shot on average about 50 percent overall the last three seasons in San Antonio.

Though, of course, there also are doubts until you've actually succeeded. So once the Bulls signed DeRozan, the question was how he would or could fit with LaVine, another high volume scorer. Though Bulls coach Billy Donovan said LaVine last season was one of the most efficient players in the NBA. It helps, DeRozan said, he and LaVine are close and traveled frequently together this summer. But also, you know, it's just basketball, what they've been doing their entire lives.

"It's not rocket science. It's not rocket science at all," DeRozan offered without the sigh he'll probably need later on to the familiar doubt. "He (LaVine) has a passion for the game and a love and appreciation to want to win. The knowledge and everything I've gained over my years being in the league and being in different situations and seeing success and playing with all type of players, I understand what it takes. So for me, it's just about us putting in the hard work and understanding each other. Once we unlock that and figure that part out with hard work and just being consistent starting tomorrow, it's going to go a long way.

"First and foremost before I've even played a game," DeRozan promised, "I (will) understand every single one of these guys' strengths when it comes to basketball. My knowledge of what it takes to be successful, what it takes to bring a team together. There's going to be ups and downs. There's going to be obstacles that you got to hit. But that's the beauty of life, period. It's about how you bounce back when things get tough and you got to figure out something. It's a new challenge and I'm looking forward to it.

"It's basketball at the end of the day. You put me out there," DeRozan added, "I'm going to figure out whatever needs to be figured out for us to be successful. I don't overthink it. I think that's when a lot of people get in trouble, when you try to overthink this game. It's a simple game. I don't get caught up in ‘I got to do this, do this.' Whatever it takes to win, that's all I care about."

To paraphrase Bull Durham, "You dribble the ball, you pass the ball, you shoot the ball. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Sometimes there's load management. It's a simple game."

The 6-6 DeRozan has seen a lot in his NBA career with also a pair of all-NBA selections. He's 32, but coming off a season averaging a career high in assists in addition to almost 22 points per game. And that's without shooting many threes. He gets to the free throw line, defends his position as he often played power forward for the Spurs and rarely misses games. The Bulls could use a lot of that.

Lately it hasn't been easy to play for the Bulls. Now it's not going to be easy preparing to play this Bulls team.

"We've got a talented group of guys," DeRozan reiterated. "(Like) Lonzo. He makes our job a lot easier. It's not just on us (Big 3) solely to go out and figure it out. We have a great IQ point guard, and that goes a long way in making our job a lot easier. We have great, high-character players, unselfish players and once you have that element, everything else will be easy. On any given night, it could be anybody that could get hot. We all understand that. We're all unselfish. For me, even choosing on coming here, it was understanding that with the character of the guys and being unselfish. It goes a long way. It's not about me, like, ‘I'm going to go out there and get 25 shots.' No. None of us think that way. It's all about winning and whatever we need to do and whatever we need to figure out to be a successful team. That's what we're going to do."

So what are the competitive possibilities with this roster? DeRozan was asked.

"Oh man!" he said.

That sounded better than the way it was said previously.

Got a question for Sam?

Submit your question to Sam at asksam@bulls.com

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or its Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

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