Nineteen-year-old DeMar DeRozan ignored the skepticism in the Toronto Raptors locker room when he first arrived in the city in 2009.
“My whole mindset was to change that (negative) narrative when I was in Toronto,” DeRozan said on Saturday, approaching a road game against the team that drafted him ninth overall.
“I heard it my first year. You heard a lot of older guys I played with in my career while I was there had those same complaints, ‘I’m not trying to stay here long term.’ I wanted to be the opposite and kind of change the narrative on why people should come here.”
A 13-year NBA veteran, DeRozan is trying to do the same in Chicago. He flashed a steady calm in the clutch for the Bulls on Monday that he carried throughout his nine seasons in Toronto.
DeRozan hit three jumpers and sank a pair of free throws in the final five minutes of action to thwart a Raptors comeback and lift Chicago to a 111-108 victory on the road.
Posting a game-high 26 points, DeRozan improved upon a perfect start to the season, stretching the Bulls’ record to 4-0 for the first time since 1996-97.
However, he was far from satisfied with the start even after his late-game heroics in front of his former team.
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DeRozan on Bulls’ Start: ‘It Don’t Mean Nothing’
With the win over the Raptors, Chicago is sitting atop the Eastern Conference standings.
But the Bulls’ latest win wasn’t their greatest. Chicago let Toronto battle within a basket twice after once holding a 20-point lead.
Fortunately for Chicago, DeRozan stayed cool, finding his spots and sinking jumpers of 16, 12 and 14 feet before icing the game with two free throws in the final five minutes of the game. The rest of the Bulls scored six points and turned the ball over four times, per NBC Sports Chicago.
DeRozan admitted that he revels in taking over in the clutch after the game.
“You live for those moments. I get up for those moments. I love them,” DeRozan said in a postgame press conference. “Since a kid, just having an imagination of hitting big shots in a dark room. You kind of feed into that when 20,000 fans are watching you.”
DeRozan, the Raptors’ all-time leader in scoring, games played and wins, could have also reveled in stinging the team that blindsided him in 2018 when they traded him to the San Antonio Spurs for Kawhi Leonard.
He didn’t let the win, being the last undefeated team in the conference or his ego get the best of him — instead pivoting to the learning lessons that came on Monday.
“It don’t mean nothing. We got a long way to go. We got a lot more to clean up, to learn,” he said. “It’s a long season. It’s great. But we gotta move on to the next game. We can’t carry this record like it’s some type of badge of honor. We have to understand that the next game is going to be even harder.”
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DeRozan Likens Chicago to Culture Shift in Toronto
This past summer, DeRozan entered the first proper free agency period of his career after finishing his pre-existing contract with the San Antonio Spurs.
When assessing his choice in where to begin again, the Bulls presented many of the same qualities he held when he first arrived in Toronto.
“Everyone was eager to want to be successful, to want to win,” DeRozan said, per NBA.com. “Everybody had that chip on their shoulder, from the city to the organization to the players that I spoke to. Coming into this season, that was everybody’s mindset. We not in a development stage. We want to win now.”