DeMar DeRozan thought it was all said and done.
In the summer of 2021, he was going home to become a Los Angeles Laker.
“I thought it was a done deal,” DeRozan said on JJ Redick’s The Old Man and the Three podcast. “ I took a trip to Mexico just to get away because I could just feel the anticipation of everything. So I was like, ‘I'm going away for a couple of days, take my mind off it.’ And by the time I come home [it will] be free agency – signed with the Lakers.”
Unfortunately for DeRozan, that wasn’t the case.
“I’m asleep one morning in Mexico. I get a call from Kyle Lowry. And he said, ‘They just made the trade for (Russell Westbrook). What's going on? I thought the deal was done for you for the Lakers.’ And I was like, ‘I'm confused.’ I'm looking at my phone like, ‘Damn, that did happen. Well, I guess that's out the window.’ And in my mind, that was the only option for me to go to. I didn't even entertain anything else because I'm letting this situation work itself out.”
DeRozan had a tumultuous 2021 offseason.
While he enjoyed his time working with head coach Gregg Popovich in San Antonio, he needed something else. He mentioned on the podcast he “doubted himself” during his time there and even felt “irrelevant.”
He had a deal to go home to the Lakers (DeRozan is native to Compton) to join forces with two of the game’s best – LeBron James and Anthony Davis. However, the deal fell through. DeRozan received minimal offers, including one veteran minimum. He felt “disrespected.”
Soon after, he met with Marc Eversley – who worked with the Toronto Raptors while DeRozan played there – to discuss an offer to join the Chicago Bulls. After a quick call to Zach LaVine – who was playing in the Olympics at the time – to make sure he was staying in Chicago, he signed a three-year deal worth $80 million.
DeRozan finally got a sense of relief. But, the agony didn’t stop there.
Pundits across the nation scrutinized the signing, questioning DeRozan’s fit with LaVine and newly hired head coach Billy Donovan. They placed unfathomable predictions on the Bulls and cast DeRozan as the “worst offseason signing” of the summer.
The skeptics ate their words in a hurry.
DeRozan was named to his fifth-career All-Star team and third All-NBA team. He averaged 28 points per game and helped lead the Bulls to the team’s first playoff berth since 2017.
He remained a staple in MVP conversations for a while after splashing back-to-back buzzer beaters (first pair in consecutive days in NBA history) and scoring 35+ points on an eight-game stretch a month later.
DeRozan endured a difficult stretch of confusion, disrespect and work to get to where he is today. But, for him and Bulls fans around the world, it was all worth it.
“My whole reason for coming is because I want to play with you [LaVine],” DeRozan said. “So once he told me that, then I think the next day they signed Zo [Lonzo Ball], and I was all in after that.”