DeRozan describes call with LaVine that made him a Bull


DeMar DeRozan did not enter his free agency in 2021 thinking he would end up a Chicago Bull.

No, DeRozan, as he said in a recent appearance on JJ Redick and Tommy Alter's The Old Man and the Three podcast, was instead "hell-bent" on signing with the Lakers. It wasn't until Los Angeles swung their trade for Russell Westbrook that the Bulls became a realistic possibility (although DeRozan says they were one of his top three preferred destinations all along).

Finances were certainly a factor in DeRozan's decision. He ultimately signed a three-year, $82 million contract with the Bulls — far more than reported suitors like the Lakers or Clippers would have been able to offer.

But he admitted to harboring reservations about the team, which then was coming off a 31-win season that fell short of the play-in tournament. Mainly: The Bulls' lack of a surefire starting point guard, and Zach LaVine's uncertain future.

"The only concern I had at the time was a point guard. They didn’t have a point guard," DeRozan told Redick and Alter on the podcast. "And I wasn’t sure what Zach was gonna do. Zach was still up in the air, if he wanted to be there or what."

Indeed, LaVine was entering the final year of his contract at that time, and with the Bulls opting not to undertake the financial gymnastics required to renegotiate and extend him in the 2021 offseason, would be due for unrestricted free agency in 2022.

So, DeRozan called up LaVine while the latter was in Tokyo playing for Team USA in the Olympics.

"I remember having to call Zach while he was in the Olympics, asking him, like, ‘Yo, is you gonna stay? Because if not I’m not even gonna entertain this. Because I don’t wanna go there and not play with you. My whole reason for coming is because I want to play with you,'" DeRozan said. "Once he told me that, I think the next day they signed ‘Zo (Lonzo Ball). And I was all in after that.”

LaVine and DeRozan went on to form a potent pairing in 2021-22. They averaged a combined 52.3 points (27.9 for DeRozan, 24.4 for LaVine) and jointly represented the Bulls in the All-Star game. LaVine then made good on his assurance to DeRozan, signing a five-year, $215 million maximum contract with the team in July.

As he has done myriad times in the past, DeRozan continued to sing the praises of LaVine on the podcast.

"Zach is one of those guys to where he doesn’t get his just due like I believe he should. He’s top five, top 10 talent in our league with the things he’s able to do. It’s nothing he can not do," DeRozan said. "Athletically he’s one of the best athletes in our league. He can shoot the ball from anywhere. Get to the basket. Everything he can do, and when you look at it and you realize, like, ‘Damn this year was his first year getting to the playoffs.’

"You gotta give him credit, you know, for the last couple years he wasn’t on the greatest of teams. So I was a big advocate of just wanting to see him be successful and get the recognition that he deserves. Because the talent that he has, the things I’ve seen him do in practice, while we scrimmaging, in the games, it’s incredible. I tell him all the time, I’m envious of so much stuff he’s able to do because he make it look so easy."

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