DeMar DeRozan said he still hasn’t watched replays of his ridiculous, game-winning, buzzer-beating 3-pointers from New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
No player in NBA history had made such back-to-back shots on consecutive days, which allowed the Chicago Bulls to sink the Pacers and Wizards on the road.
DeRozan also became the first player in league history to post eight straight 35-point games while shooting 50 percent or better in each.
But DeRozan’s special season wasn’t built on historic blips or streaks. Its foundation stands on a steady stream of scoring that pushed his scoring average to 27.9 points per game.
That average not only finished fifth in the league behind Joel Embiid, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Doncic and Trae Young. It also represented DeRozan’s career-high scoring average.
In Year 13.
“And it’s not like his career high before was 14 (points) and now it’s 16,” Nikola Vučević said. “He was near 25.”
Actually, DeRozan, 32, averaged 27.3 points for the 2016-17 Toronto Raptors, the first of his two straight All-NBA selections.
That honor likely is coming after a season in which DeRozan also shot the second-highest field-goal and free-throw percentages of his career at 50.4 and 87.7, respectively, and posted his third-best true shooting percentage at .590.
“It’s just a testament to my hard work, taking care of myself physically. Just my love and passion for the game as I continue to get older and wanting to prove that you can still get better,” DeRozan said Tuesday after Bulls’ practice at Advocate Center. “It’s crazy when I watch games these days and I see guys who are 28, 29 and I hear announcers say, ‘He’s an older guy now.’ What’s old? What’s considered to be old? There are no Tom Bradys out here. To me, I feel like that’s old. Thirty, 31, 32, that’s not old to me.
“You get smarter with age. You understand how to take care of yourself. You understand how to manipulate the game. And as long as that passion is there, you can continue to get better.”
To be clear, what DeRozan did at this stage of his career doesn’t happen often.
Kobe Bryant, who, like DeRozan, entered the NBA as a teenager, averaged 26.8 points in Year 13, below his career-high of 35.4 points per game. Tracy McGrady, another Hall of Fame scorer who entered the league as a teenager, averaged 8.2 points in Year 13. McGrady’s career-high is 32.1 points per game.
Steph Curry, part of the same draft class as DeRozan, averaged 25.5 points this season. His career-high is 32 points per game.
“It’s really impressive,” Vučević said. “To be able to do it after so many years, to continue to find ways to get better, it’s not easy to do. To average 28 points a game in general is hard and to do it in Year 13 after you have such a successful career scoring the ball in general just shows his dedication to the game, to taking care of his body and mind.
“Especially because people kind of wrote him off the last few years. For him to come back and show that he’s nowhere near done speaks highly of himself as a person and basketball player.”
Asked where this season ranks individually for him, DeRozan had a ready answer.
“Obviously, it has to be up there,” he said. “Playing in San Antonio for three years, it wasn’t like I was putting up 40 every night. I just adapted to whatever was asked of me. A lot of people probably thought I couldn’t score. To be back in my mentality from that standpoint as far as scoring, it’s definitely refreshing. And it feels good just to show that you can still do it.”
And as for those dramatic game-winners? Don’t worry. DeRozan said he’d probably watch them whenever this Bulls’ playoff runs ends.