No longer is it Dwane Casey’s job to parrot DeMar DeRozan for individual accolades.
The Pistons’ head coach got plenty of experience doing that while coaching DeRozan for seven seasons in Toronto. Then, Casey remembers annually calling up fellow Eastern Conference head coaches in an attempt to secure his star player All-Star selections.
“He doesn't have to do that anymore,” Casey cracked before his Pistons played the Chicago Bulls at the United Center Tuesday night.
Indeed, DeRozan is well on his way to a fifth career All-Star nod this season for the leading role he’s assumed in the Bulls’ overnight transformation into a contender.
But even watching from afar, and donning the logo of a longtime division rival, Casey hopes that’s just the beginning.
“I hope he does (win it),” Casey said when asked about DeRozan’s MVP candidacy. “I hope he's in consideration. He should be for what he's done here for this team. It's great to see.
“Unfortunately we have to play him, what, four times. But I hope he gets every award available to him, because he deserves it.”
Casey has a unique perspective on DeRozan’s evolution. He took the reins of the Raptors before the start of DeRozan’s second NBA season – 2011-12 – and coached there until the 2018 trade that saw DeRozan and Kawhi Leonard swap threads.
Casey and DeRozan’s combined Toronto tenure featured a 320-238 regular-season record, five playoff appearances and a conference finals berth in 2016. To this day, they each describe their relationship as akin to a father and son.
“From afar it's been beautiful to see. To see where DeMar started as a young, snotty-nosed player in Toronto, it's beautiful to see,” Casey said of DeRozan blossoming with the Bulls. “I don't look forward to coaching against him, but I'm just proud of the way he's grown as a player. The game has really slowed down for him. He sees the floor, he takes what the game gives him and he's just – he's almost a magician out there. Just gets where he wants to and does what he wants to do with the basketball.
“[It’s] a testament to his work. I spent a lot of days down in LA with him, down at his high school down there, just watching him work out and working out with his workout coach – and this is where it's taken him.”
DeRozan enters Tuesday’s game averaging 26.4 points per game, good for 7th in the NBA, and 7.9 points per fourth-quarter, second. But no statistic could fully summarize the all-encompassing impact he’s had on the Bulls’ organization.
“He's not flashy. He's not boisterous. He's under control. He lets his game speak for itself. He doesn't seek the attention.,” Casey said when asked about the perception that DeRozan is underrated. “Some of the things he does, only probably a coach or a former player or players would appreciate what he does on the floor.”
Now, Bulls fans do too.