The Chicago Bulls outbid everyone for DeMar DeRozan in free agency ahead of the 2021-22 season.
They handed him a three-year, $81.9 million contract, a deal so rich that it took him out of the price range of both L.A. teams among others such as the New York Knicks, per Jake Fischer for Bleacher Report.
Coming off his second season in Chicago with one year remaining on that contract, speculation has built about where DeRozan could eye a trade which could include one of the L.A. teams, in the near future. But, during an appearance on ‘Podcast P with Paul George’ on May 15, DeRozan didn’t give that idea his full endorsement.
“I’m at a stage to where I’m okay now if I don’t,” DeRozan told Los Angeles Clippers star Paul George. “It’s not the ultimate desire of mine you know what I mean because…the love that I’m able to bring back here and receive from being here too. It’s just as fulfilling to me.”
Paul revealed that Clippers’ star Kawhi Leonard was on board with DeRozan’s potential addition.
DeRozan, 33, thought he would be joining LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers before signing with the Bulls. He has fully embraced being in Chicago from doing his best to respect the “aura” of the United Center to embracing the mentor role that many of his teammates filled for him before.
“Throughout my career, the guys that I play with, I kind of lean towards them,” he told George. “Now being the older guy, to be able to play with such a talented guy, it’s been fun for me.”
And with whispers of a potential contract extension during the season, the fun may continue.
“I mean I used to think, ‘Man, I gotta I gotta play at home so I can see what it’s like’…But it’s like I get it from both ways now you know from home and I’m able to represent home from where I’m playing right you know what I mean? So, no, I don’t feel like that no more.”
DeMar DeRozan May Be Bulls’ Best Trade Asset
Just because DeRozan isn’t eyeing a return to L.A. doesn’t mean he couldn’t get one.
He could also be sent to some other location as the Bulls look to improve their roster despite limited finances and restrictions on their draft capital. And the Bulls could be ready to build around Zach LaVine as the clear No. 1 option, per Heavy Sports NBA insider Sean Deveney.
“DeMar at this point,” a rival exec told Heavy Sports in January. “LaVine is younger and they’ve already made the contract commitment to him. There are concerns about his knee, but the Bulls went all in on him and that makes a trade much more difficult. DeRozan is a lot more flexible when it comes to what you can do with a trade, so if it is one or the other, it would be him.”
LaVine, 28 is heading into the second year of a five-year, $215 million contract and made a career-high 77 starts this season, allaying concerns about his knee following offseason surgery.
He also says he and DeRozan are determined to reach their full potential together.
The Bulls also still owe a first-round pick to the San Antonio Spurs from the DeRozan trade and, while it is top-10 protected, they would surely like to extract maximum value from their investment and switching up such a critical piece to the puzzle just two years later could be viewed as admitting failure.
Other Signs DeMar DeRozan Will Still Be a Bull in 2023-24
On top of what the Bulls gave up to get DeRozan – which one could argue is already a sunk cost – is only one reason it would seem more likely than not that he returns next season.
He has also openly discussed shooting the three ball more next season which falls in line with direct comments from Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas about changing the team’s shot profile.
DeRozan averaged 1.0 more threes per game after the calendar flipped to 2023 than he did before. Part of that was a quad injury that he dealt with down the stretch but DeRozan also noted that he is intent on passing the torch to LaVine as they move forward.