Bulls’ DeMar DeRozan Posts Cryptic Message Ahead of Pivotal Showdown

Chicago Bulls

Getty DeMar DeRozan #11 and Zach LaVine #8 of the Chicago Bulls.

If a picture is worth 1000 words, Chicago Bulls star DeMar DeRozan just said a mouthful.

Poised to take on the team that drafted him ninth overall in 2009, the Toronto Raptors, DeRozan took to social media to deliver a very pointed message. It comes in the form of a still image, shared to his Instagram stories, of Al Pacino as Michael Corleone, the protagonist of ‘The Godfather‘ trilogy.

In the specific scene, “Corleone”, is sitting in attendance during his murdered father, Don Vito Corleone’s funeral.

As he watches the attendees file through to pay their respects, he is approached by one of his father’s former underlings who arranges a meeting on “neutral” ground to settle some unfinished business in a supposedly peaceful manner.

“You know how they’re going to come at you,” his long-time friend and advisor Tom Hagen asks to which Corleone explains the plot letting on that he smells a set-up.

What follows is a series of events by which Michael asserts himself as the new Don by eliminating his adversaries all while he (mostly) keeps his hands clean. There will be no set-up for DeRozan against the Raptors but he certainly knows what to expect from his former head coach.

“I mean that’s Nick Nurse,” DeRozan said via Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic following the Bulls’ regular season-ending win over the Detroit Pistons on April 9. “I mean I’m going to deal with it. I know how to deal with it now. But playing against Nick and playing against those guys, they try to do everything in their power to make sure I don’t beat them. We got a couple days to gameplan [and] put together something. But I’m aware of it, for sure. I’m aware of it. For my sake, I definitely have my own theory for how I’m going to deal with it.”

He’s also acknowledged that the extra attention is a sign of respect in this business.

Raptors Remain Fond of DeMar DeRozan

“He’s like a megastar,” Nurse (an assistant during DeRozan’s tenure) said, per Mayberry on March 8. “What we had to pull out last night on him to try to stop him; I mean, we stopped him and he still had 20…We threw an all-out assault at him last night in every way we could think of — and he still got 20.”

Nurse isn’t the only Raptor who still holds DeRozan in high regard. Swingman OG Anunoby has been tasked with guarding DeRozan in their previous matchups.

He still looks back fondly on his lone year under DeRozan’s tutelage.

Anunoby learned enough to be quite the pest to DeRozan and Nurse only serves to exasperate the issue for the Bulls. And it is a big issue as DeRozan and Zach LaVine were held to 30 points on 11-for-23 shooting from the floor with the latter also going 1-for-5 from deep in the last meeting.

They are likely in for more of the same in their Play-In matchup as Anunoby already said he expects DeRozan to be even more aggressive than usual.

It might take DeRozan being more of a facilitator in which case the hope is LaVine can get loose. But Nurse has shown no aversions to throwing the house at him as well, meaning the Bulls could be relying on a cast of fallible supporting characters.

Nikola Vucevic Must Win Minutes vs Jakob Poeltl

The Bulls were rumored to have had an interest in Raptors center Jakob Poeltl dating back to last year when he was still a member of the San Antonio Spurs.

He certainly made an impact in his lone meeting against the Bulls as a Raptor.

Bulls center Nikola Vucevic will have to hold his own against a player who may not be the diverse scoring threat that he is but who does impact the game in many of the other ways that Vucevic can. Poeltl has the added benefit (to his team) of providing rim protection and all-around solid defense.

Where he can struggle is at the free-throw line and, like most bigs, with fouls, though he is still better than many others in that regard too averaging just 3.0 per game in Toronto.

Vucevic must be involved early to get him locked in for the battle against Poeltl and to get Poltl to commit some early fouls. On the other end, the Bulls probably can’t afford to sacrifice Vucevic’s offense but putting Poeltl – (53.6% career FT) – at the line might not be the worst idea in a pinch.

The Bulls were also notably 16-9 when Vucevic took at least 16 shots from the field during the regular season and went 24-33 when he did not.

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