Bulls Insider

DeRozan, LaVine say their on-court fit is fine


Following his impressive, 39-point performance as the Chicago Bulls eliminated the Toronto Raptors from the play-in tournament, Zach LaVine revealed a new nugget.

DeMar DeRozan was one of the main voices propping him up during his slow start to the 2022-23 season, which featured LaVine on a knee injury management plan and lacking the lift and explosion that defines his game.

At Saturday’s exit meeting day at the Advocate Center, LaVine took matters a step further.

“Being able to play with DeMar these last two seasons has been great. He’s one of my best friends on and off the court, LaVine said. “Learning different things from him and him learning different things from me, it’s been fun playing off each other. We’re really close on having one of those offenses that’s unstoppable. When we’re both on, it shows. We’re able to take over games. But we just need to do a little bit more and figure out how to get that to a little more winning. I think that’s the thing that we were both a little bit frustrated about, how we can both play off each other better.

“But me and DeMar as a duo, I haven’t been more confident with anybody in my life.”

LaVine averaged 24.8 points this season with a true shooting percentage of .607, the second-best of his nine-year career.

DeRozan made his second straight All-Star appearance, averaged 24.5 points and shot the same 50.4 percent from the field that he posted in his first season with the Bulls.

“Man, what’s crazy even talking to him on the plane (Friday) night is we haven’t even scratched the surface,” DeRozan said. “Last year, with him feeling being hurt and me carrying so much of the load and this year him coming off his surgery, I know early on in the season he was frustrated just trying to find his rhythm. I kept being in his ear telling him, ‘It’s gonna come. You got to get your rhythm back. You haven’t played. You haven’t touched a ball.’

“By the time he got healthy and got it rolling, I began to deal with my quad. So we haven’t been fully ourself and that’s the scary part about it.”

DeRozan makes an intriguing point. Save for the first half of last season, when the Bulls had a healthy Lonzo Ball, LaVine and DeRozan never have been fully healthy at the same time.

And yet, even with their strong respective individual seasons, the Bulls’ offense ranked 24th in the league. So the questions about their on-court fit persist.

“I honestly don’t pay no mind to it because the conversations me and him have on a daily basis of how we can be better, how we can make the team better is genuine and it’s big,” DeRozan said. “So with that, no one on the outside can question what our fit is because it’s all about us. How can we not make just two guys work but make five guys on the court work?

“They said Shaq (O’Neal) and Kobe (Bryant) didn’t fit. They went on to win. So you can question anything about everybody. I think it’s just a matter of us finding the right sequence of dynamics that brings out the best in us and the other three guys on the floor with us. We showed spurts of that plenty of times.”

DeRozan prefers to operate in the mid-range, often in isolation. LaVine is at his best in catch-and-shoot situations and in attack mode, particularly in transition. Ball seemed to be the connecting piece between the two.

Patrick Beverley provided a passable veteran presence at point guard down the stretch. And to DeRozan’s point, the Bulls finished 14-9 with himself and LaVine as the centerpieces. So their impact on a winning, five-man unit is possible.

But until the Bulls win at a higher level and consistently, the questions of on-court chemistry between the two will remain. There are no such questions about the duo off the court. They genuinely like and respect each other.

It’s all about on-court fit.

“I’ve never played with such a talented gifted player at the wing position as Zach,” DeRozan said. “It was so many days, so many nights, so many times being in the gym that he wowed me with his capability. With the experience I have of just trying to help him hone into his talent on a whole other level, that has helped me be a better leader, a better vocal guy. Having somebody with such a talent bring so much out of me because I see so much in him that he don’t even realize.

“And I wish I could tell you as many conversations we had that were genuine of him just trying to figure out and become everything he wants to be from watching me have so much success with different aspects of my career. He definitely pushed me to be a better teammate for sure.”

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