Bulls Insider

DeRozan attracted by challenge of restoring Bulls

/ by K.C. Johnson
Presented By Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich
Bulls Insider

Talk to DeMar DeRozan long enough and an epic metaphor almost certainly will come from his mouth. It’s how the willing and able interviewee talks.

And so it was recently when DeRozan, who leads the Chicago Bulls into their first-round matchup versus the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday, got going on part of what he found appealing about joining his new franchise last offseason.

“It’s kind of working on a broke-down car,” DeRozan said in a sitdown with NBC Sports Chicago. “You put a broke-down car in front of somebody and a brand-new foreign vehicle. Most people are going to pick the brand-new car. But me, I see so much potential of your own stamp and own mark you can leave on a broke-down, abandoned car. To where when you build it up, you find more appreciation in the work that you put into it. That’s how I view it.”

Of course, it all makes such perfect sense now.

After his dalliance with the Lakers fizzled and the sign-and-trade transaction that netted DeRozan $81.9 million over three years was consummated, the newest Bull posted an old-school video to his Twitter account.

The “running of the Bulls” video from roughly the era when DeRozan entered the NBA in 2009 hearkened back to a different time. It’s what DeRozan watched on the United Center scoreboard as a Toronto Raptors rookie.


And it’s what reminded him of the dynasty-era Bulls that he watched as a kid growing up in Compton, Calif.

“Especially with the history already behind it. They hadn’t been successful in awhile,” DeRozan said of the moment it started to take shape that he’d be a Bull. “That was the mental approach.”

If you look closely enough, this has been a pattern throughout DeRozan’s life. He chose USC over the more established UCLA when he decided to stay home for college. And while others have run from the Raptors, DeRozan embraced being the face of not only that franchise but a country’s love for basketball.

Helping restore the Bulls to prominence is the latest example.

“I’m big on the underdog mentality. A lot of people run from those challenges. Me, I really want to see what I’m made of in those moments. You leave your own mark that way. I’m always big on that,” DeRozan said. “I want to go somewhere and leave my mark or start something that hasn’t been done. To me, that’s more honorable. You started it and took on the challenge.”

Even if DeRozan had joined the Lakers, this mentality would’ve applied. Their 2020 NBA title in the so-called Orlando Bubble snapped a string of six straight seasons outside the playoffs. And they lost in the first round in 2021.

Instead, DeRozan joined the Bulls and immediately placed his stamp on the franchise, from his career-best scoring average on the court in Year 13 to his calming, veteran presence off it.

And now they’re in the postseason for the first time since 2017.

“I’m modest and humble until I step on the court,” DeRozan said.

With the Raptors, DeRozan advanced to one conference finals and two conference semifinals. LeBron James’ Cavaliers eliminated him all three times.

The run to the 2016 Eastern Conference finals featured a memorable, seven-game semifinals victory over the Miami Heat.

“He’s one of those players who is universally respected,” Miami coach Erik Spolestra said before a Bulls-Heat game this season. “We had so many battles against him over the years when he was in Toronto. And he broke our hearts so many times. He was one of the best clutch players then and still is.

“We always felt if the game got close and he had an opportunity that that was a problem because of his ability to draw fouls and his ability to get to wherever he wants to and get a clean shot off. He’s just a great player. And he’s having arguably the best year of his career at this age.”

Yes, DeRozan, 32, is still thriving in the big moments. None are bigger for these Bulls than what begins on Sunday.

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