Bulls Star’s Old-School Game Fueling Historic Effort

DeMar DeRozan Bulls

Getty Chicago Bulls star DeMar DeRozan celebrates as he heads to the bench during a game against the New York Knicks.

In a vacuum, the Chicago Bulls‘ win over the Knicks at MSG on Thursday felt like a throwback to a bygone age. It hearkened back to that golden age when the teams were both fighting tooth and nail for the same things. The days of MJ exchanging daggers with John Starks; Patrick Ewing beasting down low against Bill Cartwright or Will Perdue or whoever else the Bulls could throw at him.

We even got to see Julius Randle channel his inner Anthony Mason during an exchange with Evan Fournier.

It was a slobber-knocker through and through, right down to the final-round knockout punch that was characteristic of the best Knicks-Bulls bouts in the ’90s. Only instead of His Airness delivering the crushing blow, it was DeMar DeRozan who shut it down in Chicago’s 119-115 victory in the Big Apple.

Given that setup, the fact that DeRozan scored 18 points on 6-of-7 shooting — with zero threes — during the decisive fourth quarter was appropriate. He’s the oldest of the old-school; a player moving horizontally in a game gone vertical. And he’s doing things rarely seen in NBA history along the way.

DeRozan Having a Year for the (Old) Ages

As relayed by ESPN Stats & Info, Nikola Vucevic, Zach LaVine and DeRozan just became the first trio to score 25-plus points apiece on 50% shooting in back-to-back games in more than 30 years. The last group to do it: the Golden State Warriors’ Run TMC crew of Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin in 1990.

DeRozan’s flirtation with history goes beyond the two-game sample, though. He is literally putting together a campaign the likes of which has only been managed by seven other players age 32 or older in the history of the league.

As of this writing, DeRozan is averaging better than 26 points, five rebounds and four assists per game while posting an effective field goal percentage north of 50. That, in and of itself, is pretty incredible, but it becomes all the more impressive when one considers the other players who have matched that line for a season after their 32nd birthday:

Michael Jordan (twice), Stephen Curry (twice), LeBron James (three times), Karl Malone, Kevin Durant (twice), Kobe Bryant and Wilt Chamberlain.

That’s it, that’s the group. And when you further isolate the players attempting less than four three-pointers per game, you’re left with MJ, the Mailman, Wilt the Stilt and DeRozan.

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DeRozan on His Mid-Range Mastery

Few players in the modern NBA are thriving in the mid-range like DeRozan. Among players attempting two or more shots from between 10 and 14 feet from the hoop, he leads the Association with a field goal percentage of 57.6 (on 4.0 per game).

So, how is it that DeRozan has become so good taking shots that haven’t been cool since the fledgling days of the Obama Administration?

“It’s just repetition,” DeRozan said, via The Athletic. “Over and over. Countless days, nights, of just being real attention-to-detail to how defenders guard you. Whether it’s smalls, strong, long players, tall players, I always put a lot of that into consideration when I’m getting to a spot or when I’m getting to a move.”

He added, “It’s just so much that goes into it. It took years. It’s nothing that happened overnight. I just really pay attention to the details of basketball. I’m a basketball fanatic, and it just becomes second nature when I’m out there.”


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