Western Conference Rival Sends Strong Message on Bulls Star DeMar DeRozan

DeMar DeRozan, Chicago Bulls

Getty DeMar DeRozan #11 of the Chicago Bulls.

The impact that Chicago Bulls All-Star DeMar DeRozan has had on the younger generation of NBA players cannot be denied.

But is his impact on the level of Michael Jordan?

“Yes,” Oklahoma City Thunder guard forward Luguentz Dort exclaimed, per Brandon Robinson of Bally Sports.

“DeRozan was probably one of them that we all really watched on TV,” Dort said. “And if I had to add some other guys: Andrew Wiggins in high school, you know, had one of the top basketball mixtapes so we would watch that, and Steve Nash. Everybody had been talking about Steve Nash back in Canada, so I’ve heard of him and watched his highlights a little bit. But on TV, it was really DeMar DeRozan carrying the team.”

DeMar DeRozan Toronto Raptors Career HighlightsIn 9 season with Raptors: 675 Games Played 22,986 Minutes Played 13,296 Points (19.7 PPG) 2739 Rebounds (4.1 RPG) 2078 Assists (3.1 APG) 655 Steals (1.0 SPG) 185 Blocks (0.3 BPG) 4716-10532 Field Goals (45 FG%) 3539-4277 Free Throws (83 FT%) 325-1128 Three-Pointers (29 3P%) 17.7 PER .536 TS% .463 eFG% 27.1 USG% 54 Win…2018-10-15T22:39:33Z

Dort went to college at Arizona State but he grew up in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. DeRozan spent the first nine years of his NBA career with the Toronto Raptors earning four All-Star selections and helping to orchestrate the bulk of seven straight playoff appearances.

Toronto and Quebec are not exactly close – they’re actually over 300 miles apart.

But Dort pointed out that he was unable to watch the Boston Celtics or Los Angeles Lakers growing up.

His current team, the Thunder did not exist yet. They were still known as the Seattle Supersonics until 2008 but presumably equally as unavailable on Canadian television. The Grizzlies moved from Vancouver – which is clear across the country – to Memphis in 2001 when Dort was two years old.

“I was a soccer player and all my friends were playing basketball,” Dort said of what began his basketball journey. “And then Toronto was the only team that we had, and growing up…So I had to watch (the Raptors).”

Toronto won the NBA title in 2019 after sending DeRozan to the San Antonio Spurs for Kawhi Leonard.

Dort entered the league as an undrafted free agent the following season and has quickly become one of the league’s better defenders. While defense is not necessarily DeRozan’s forte, having that sort of lasting impact on the next generation is.

DeMar DeRozan Setting a Similar Example for Bulls Youngsters

DeRozan’s impact on the younger generations, a responsibility he picked up from the late Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, has been well-documented. He even got a shoutout from Celtics star Jayson Tatum after the two trained together over the offseasons and was lauded by his former teammates.

“It was definitely beneficial,” Spurs wing Keldon Johnson said of the experience in 2022, per Tom Osborn of the San Antonio Express-News. “Whether it was looking at DeMar and seeing how he breaks down the game and gets people involved in different ways to get to the free-throw line and score the ball, or Patty [Mills] with leadership and positive vibes, and his shooting, and then Rudy [Gay] and Gorgui [Dieng], they are very hands-on with the younger guys.”

That has continued with the Bulls.

DeRozan notably took Patrick Williams and Ayo Dosunmu under his wing last season going so far as to include the former in a “summer from hell” training experience and attending the latter’s jersey retirement ceremony at his high school.

All of this points to a much deeper role on the team than what he can produce on the floor which has not quite been to the same level as last season, though still impactful.

DeMar DeRozan’s Future with Bulls in Question

DeRozan’s impact on the younger Bulls has not translated into wins this season. And, despite reports that he and Zach LaVine are still close off the court, their on-court chemistry has come back under intense scrutiny in the absence of a floor general to equally distribute the ball between them and big man Nikola Vucevic.

This is where Lonzo Ball’s absence has hurt the most.

Still, DeRozan is 33 and will be heading into the final year of his contract next season. There has been speculation that he could get another contract from the Bulls but, given his age and the team’s current outlook, it may behoove both sides to part ways.

Sam Smith of Bulls.com believes they will part ways with the six-time All-Star after next season but to lose him for nothing could be a considerable misstep.

Executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas is already under fire.

Karnisovas has not discussed a new contract with Vucevic who will hit unrestricted free agency this coming offseason and has a roster that is struggling to stay in the Play-In Tournament race which could lead DeRozan – who had eyes for at least two other destinations in the Lakers and New York Knicks before signing with the Bulls last season – to seek greener pastures.

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