DeMar DeRozan

DeMar DeRozan on potential Bulls' return: ‘This is where I want to be'

Veteran reiterates desire to sign extension, restore franchise to winning ways

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DETROIT --- DeMar DeRozan couldn’t be clearer about his potential future with the Chicago Bulls.

“This is where I want to be,” he said in an interview following Thursday morning’s shootaround at Little Caesars Arena.

The 15-year veteran, having another stellar campaign that likely will again make him a finalist for the Jerry West Clutch Player of the Year award, could become an unrestricted free agent this offseason. The Bulls are finishing another middling season with this three-game trip, headed to the Play-In Tournament for the second straight season.

And yet DeRozan not only hopes a contract extension comes before unrestricted free agency begins on July 1, he reiterated his season-long stance that he doesn’t like to bail on tough situations. In this day and age of player empowerment and stars asking for changes of address to form super teams, DeRozan is unabashedly old school, loyal to the end.

Plus, DeRozan says he’s happy.

“I love ownership. I love everything about the city and the franchise, top to bottom---the front office, the staff we have,” he said. “It’s one of those places that gives me motivation to see everybody get what they deserve and feel what winning is like again.”

DeRozan, who made similar comments during a sitdown earlier this season in Indianapolis, has outplayed the three-year, $81.9 million contract he signed in August 2021 in his sign-and-trade transaction with the San Antonio Spurs. He made two All-Star teams the last two seasons and leads the NBA in minutes played and fourth-quarter scoring this season.

Management and coach Billy Donovan have praised his leadership with the Bulls’ young core and steady personality through trying times.

“You watch me, how hard I play, how hard I want to give success to this organization, this city, that’s my main focal point. I always want to finish a job. The last couple years have been tough with injuries and so many ups and downs. But I always want to weather the storm and stick through whatever situation it is to make the most out of it, to make it even better,” DeRozan said. “That’s always been my mindset and it’s my mindset going forward. How can I be here and make this a winning organization like when I first came?

“The feeling, the vibe, the energy that was around when we had that run (in 2021-22), I want the city and all these players to experience that again---and for myself too. It’s always easy to complain and say what’s not. But I made it clear this is where I want to be and ride it out. I don’t want to go nowhere.

“They know it. Everybody knows my stance. I lay it down from this perspective: I want to come back. Everybody else figure out what you need to figure out. And that’s just how I look at it so I don’t stress or worry about what’s what. I made it clear this is where I want to be. The powers that be just need to figure out what needs to happen. Everybody knows my mindset.”

One way the Bulls could get back to those good early vibes of 2021-22 would be if Lonzo Ball somehow not only returns from a nearly unprecedented absence and cartilage replacement surgery but regain his form. Ball is as selfless a player as there is, the ultimate connecting piece.

“One thing about ‘Zo, he’s been one of the strongest individuals I’ve seen, how positive he has stayed,” DeRozan said. “There have been times I’ve called and checked on him or in the summertime gone to his house and it don’t feel like he’s been out for a couple years. He’s always working.

“I haven’t had a chance to see his workouts in person. But when I check on him, it’s always positive feedback. I’m hoping for the best. I hope he does play again. I want to see him back on the court. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about when we had Lonzo and how he was playing---how we were playing---and the things he was doing on the court was remarkable.”

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