DeMar DeRozan named Eastern Conference Player of the Week

The bad news, however, is that DeRozan (averaged over 30 points per game in Chicago's past three games) is now in the NBA's health and safety protocols.
by Sam Smith
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There was perhaps one significant question about DeMar DeRozan Monday being named Eastern Conference Player of the Week.

What took so long?

DeRozan received the honor for the week ending Dec. 5 when the Bulls swept the Knicks and first place Nets on the road after a home win against the Charlotte Hornets. DeRozan averaged 30.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and four assists in that period and remained fourth in the NBA in scoring at 26.4 per game and arguably the best clutch player in the game, leading the NBA by a large margin in both fourth quarter scoring and team margin when he's in the game in the fourth quarter.

Though the 13th season veteran doesn't get the media mentions and advertising exposure of players like Stephen Curry, LeBron James and Kevin Durant, DeRozan's play has been MVP caliber for a Bulls team projected to be a marginal playoff contender that now is on the verge of moving into first in the conference.

DeRozan is the first Bulls player since Jimmy Butler in April 2017 to be honored with the weekly award. Butler received the designation four times, tied with Ben Gordon for fourth most in franchise history. Derrick Rose and Scottie Pippen were named five times and Michael Jordan 23 times, which also demonstrates the flaws with the award. Just 23 times? Though it is appropriate symmetry.

Now do you want the bad news?

Just as the NBA was announcing the honor, the Bulls learned that DeRozan would miss his first game of the season Monday being put in the Covid health and safety protocols. Bulls coach Billy Donovan said prior to the game with Denver he didn't know if that meant DeRozan tested positive. With the Thanksgiving holiday and Christmas ahead, the NBA returned to daily testing of players even if they are vaccinated. Reports have indicated all the Bulls players have received the vaccine.

DeRozan thus joins Coby White and Javonte Green in the virus health and safety protocols. There is a different timetable for time away from the team testing positive for the virus versus contact. DeRozan apparently did not have symptoms since he participated in the morning shootaround practice Monday. LeBron James recently was placed in the protocols, but removed following multiple negative tests with a so called false positive.

Donovan also revealed that Alex Caruso will be out at least a week as a precautionary measure with a hamstring issue. Donovan said Caruso will be reevaluated next week. Donovan said the injury was "not significant," but the team didn't want to risk exacerbating his situation.

"I don't think anyone was under the premise that even if you were vaccinated you would have no chance of getting Covid," said Donovan. "The hope is by being vaccinated maybe the symptoms aren't as severe…as if you were unvaccinated. This time of year certainly there has been a spike in this.

"It's a lot of different people (out including injured Patrick Williams)," Donovan noted. "So we've had to deal with this a good portion of the year. We're going to have different combinations and if anything this is the way I look at it like this is the hand we're dealt, I like our group of guys. Tonight we are playing against a good team that has been playing very well. We're going to find our more about ourselves and we're going to be able to find out about some other guys who have not had an opportunity to play as much."

Artis Gilmore in November 1980 was the first Bulls player named for the Player of the Week award. The award was inaugurated the season before in 1979-80. Others in franchise history to receive a weekly such mention were Nate Robinson, Carlos Boozer, Orlando Woolridge and Reggie Theus.

Utah's Donovan Mitchell was named Western Conference Player of the Week.

It was the 12th time in DeRozan's career he has been selected as a weekly winner. He was named one when he was with the San Antonio Spurs in 2020 and 10 times during his nine-year tenure with the Toronto Raptors. With Toronto in March 2018, DeRozan collected back to back Player of the Week awards. DeRozan was an All-Star four times with Toronto and twice all-NBA.

He helped lead the Raptors to the Eastern Conference finals in 2016, but after the 2017-18 season he was traded to the Spurs for Kawhi Leonard. The Raptors then went on to win the NBA title in 2019 before Leonard left to sign with the Los Angeles Clippers. DeRozan assumed more of a supporting role with the Spurs.

So when he became a free agent this past summer at 32 coming off the third lowest scoring average in his previous eight seasons as a considered out-of-step midrange shooter, many critics questioned the Bulls acquisition, which technically became a sign-and-trade deal.

But the 6-6 DeRozan is having a mid career renaissance with one of his best seasons. His scoring, shooting and three-point shooting rates are the second best of his career and rebounding third best. Plus, he's among the NBA leaders this season in free throw attempts and combining with teammate Zach LaVine to form the most lethal and highest scoring tandem in the NBA this season.

It continues the growing recognition for the Bulls, who were 16-8 and second in the Eastern Conference Monday heading into the game with the Denver Nuggets. Donovan last week was named Eastern Conference Coach of the Month for October/ November.

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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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