Bulls Insider

DeRozan on how free agency doubts fueled monster year


By now, DeMar DeRozan’s unexpected path to the Chicago Bulls during 2021 free agency is well documented.

But approaching the one-year anniversary of his sign-and-trade acquisition from the San Antonio Spurs, DeRozan added a new layer of eloquence to the process during his appearance on “The Draymond Green Show.”

On Green’s podcast, DeRozan detailed the depths of uncertainty that the process created for him when he didn’t initially sign with a team. Multiple reports at the time projected DeRozan to land with his hometown Los Angeles Lakers before that franchise pivoted to their acquisition of Russell Westbrook.

“It didn’t go as planned. That kind of brought so much doubt in it for me and put me in a dark place because I started to question like, ‘Alright, where am I going now? What player am I going to be?’” DeRozan told Green. “So many of these questions started to creep in and a lot of people didn’t realize, big names kind of always sign in the first day or two. I think I went a couple days into free agency with still such a question mark. Was I going to go somewhere with a one-year deal? Was I going to take the minimum? The narrative... put me in a (expletive) place, honestly.

“I remember through that whole time — it was three, four days in a row — I didn’t leave out the room. I didn’t see the sun set. I didn’t see the sun come up. I was depressed. It put me in a depressed mindset because I didn’t know what was going to happen. Was I going to come to LA? That fell through and didn’t happen. You seeing guys sign other places. Everybody hitting me, like, ‘What you going to do?’ And there were certain moments where I had no (expletive) clue what I was going to do.”

The Bulls actually finalized the particulars with the Spurs on the sign-and-trade transaction on Aug. 3, 2021, just over 24 hours into free agency. It became official on Aug. 11. But the buildup to free agency involves backchannel conversations and talks of parameters that left DeRozan swirling.

It’s why the resolution sharpened DeRozan’s already-known focus.

“When the Chicago thing came around and I made that happen, it was such a relief. But at the same time, it angered me and put me in a very frustrating mental (state) of like, (expletive) this. I’m about to demolish anything you gotta say about me,” DeRozan told Green. “I’m not going to say nothing. I’m just going to work my ass off. And I’m going to prove not just for myself but for anybody who feel like they get counted out, they get doubted or get told that they can’t do something.

“My whole career has kind of been based off that. But I never let it bring me completely down. It knocked me down. But I got back up. And for me, that moment of going to Chicago, I just told myself, ‘This is a new opportunity. I’m going to make the most out of it in every type of way.’”

DeRozan indeed did that. He earned second-team All-NBA honors and his fifth All-Star selection by averaging a career-high 27.9 points. He sank dramatic back-to-back game-winning shots on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, posted an historic stretch of eight straight games with 35 points or more on 50 percent or better shooting, and helped the Bulls make their first postseason appearance in five years.

During the conversation on Green’s podcast, it becomes clear that Green would call DeRozan often throughout the season to celebrate his successes.

“It was those conversations of like, you know, my peers see it and they understand it. But I remember when I signed with Chicago, it was ‘worst free agent signing,’” DeRozan said, referencing a popular reaction by segments of fans and the media. “It was like, ‘That’s what you feel about me?’

“It was a vengeance not just for myself but just for anybody that gets put in that situation because it’s so easy to fall victim to the (expletive) that they put on you that is so false. You can lose confidence. You could doubt yourself. You could feel like, ‘Maybe they’re right.’ When it’s like, ‘Nah, I don’t care how much older I’m getting. It’s all about how much you put in, how much you love and how much you’re willing to sacrifice to keep getting better.’ That was my whole approach, my whole mentality.”

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