LeBron James’ recent appearance at the Drew League has some Los Angeles Lakers fans thinking about what could have been. James teamed up with Bulls guard DeMar DeRozan for an offseason run in one of the notable summer basketball circuits.
DeRozan was one of the star free agents linked to the Lakers during the 2021 offseason but ultimately the team opted to acquire Russell Westbrook, leaving Los Angeles with few remaining assets to pull off a sign-and-trade for the guard. After James’ impressive performance, the superstar took to Twitter to give DeRozan a shoutout.
“My dog Debo!!! @DeMar_DeRozan ✊🏾,” James tweeted on July 16, 2022 posting a photo with the Bulls guard.
James was named Player of the Game for his outing notching 42 points, 16 rebounds and four steals. Lakers fans are left wondering about what the potential duo could have looked like wearing purple and gold.
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DeRozan: ‘I Felt Like Going to the Lakers Was a Done Deal’
The Lakers’ disastrous 2021 offseason will continue to be scrutinized given the team’s failed roster decisions. During a November 16, 2021 interview with Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes, DeRozan admitted that he believed signing with the Lakers was a “done deal.”
“I felt like going to the Lakers was a done deal and that we were going to figure it out,” DeRozan explained. “I was going to come home. The business side of things just didn’t work out. A couple of things didn’t align. It didn’t work out. It’s just part of the business, part of the game. My next option was definitely Chicago. So, looking back at it, it worked out well.”
DeRozan was one of the best guards in the NBA during his first season in Chicago averaging 27.9 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.9 assists while shooting a career-high 35.2% from long range in 76 starts for the Bulls. The veteran guard’s play earned DeRozan his fifth All-Star game appearance.
DeMar Met With LeBron Multiple Times During the 2021 Offseason
DeRozan was one of the top players James and Anthony Davis courted last offseason. The Athletic’s Bill Oram, Shams Charania, and Sam Amick reported that DeRozan had two meetings at James’ home discussing his potential fit with the Lakers.
“One of those potential moves involved DeMar DeRozan, a Compton, Calif., native and former USC star,” Oram, Charania and Amick wrote on September 27, 2021. “He took part in two such meetings at James’ home and had separate ongoing phone conversations with James. His conversations with the Lakers co-stars had gone well, with the then-soon-to-be free agent discussing all the ways in which he thought this new star trio might work.
“With four All-Star Games and a pair of appearances on All-NBA teams to his name, the longtime Toronto Raptor who had spent the previous three seasons with San Antonio, emerged from his meetings with that locker room brain trust believing he was their priority and he might soon be playing in the purple and gold.”
The Lakers Considered a Sign-and-Trade Package for DeRozan Before Landing Westbrook
DeRozan landed a three-year, $81.9 million contract with the Bulls, while the Lakers opted to trade for Westbrook. The Lakers were considering a similar sign-and-trade package for DeRozan centered around Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka would no doubt like a do-over as the team will now need to attach future draft picks if they want to move Westbrook’s $47 million salary.
“Sources said Pelinka and his front-office group strongly considered executing a sign-and-trade for the 32-year-old DeRozan, giving up Kuzma and Caldwell-Pope in the process, but couldn’t come to consensus terms with the Spurs in free agency or a suitable contract number for DeRozan,” Oram, Charania and Amick detailed. “What’s more, sources say the DeRozan option never advanced to the point that it was presented to Buss.”