DeMar DeRozan has been on a tear to start the 2021-22 season, as the former All-Star has found a comfortable new home in Chicago, averaging 26.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 4.1 assists on 51.0/37.1/87.3 shooting splits through 14 games with the Bulls.
That stellar play has helped lift the Bulls to a 10-4 record and done nothing to dissuade those in Chicago from proclaiming that the Bulls are, in fact, back. However, DeRozan wasn’t initially planning on joining the Bulls, instead hoping for a homecoming in Los Angeles, as the Compton native sought to get back to his roots this offseason. DeRozan spoke with Yahoo’s Chris Haynes after his 38-point performance in a blowout of the Lakers on Monday — which followed a 35-point effort to beat the Clippers on Sunday — and said while there’s no hard feelings with the Lakers, he felt it was a “done deal” that he’d end up there in a sign-and-trade this summer.
“I felt like going to the Lakers was a done deal and that we were going to figure it out. I was going to come home,” DeRozan told Yahoo Sports after scoring a game-high 38 points to lead the Bulls to a 121-103 victory at Staples Center. “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.
What changed was the Lakers shifted their attention from DeRozan to Russell Westbrook when the latter made his push to leave Washington, turning all of their assets over to the Wizards in the process (who have gotten off to a similar hot start to the Bulls at 10-3). For DeRozan, he understands the Lakers wanting to add Russ but says he once again has learned a lesson about assuming anything in the world of NBA transactions.
“Nah, Russ is a Hall of Fame player,” DeRozan told Yahoo Sports. “It’s hard to turn down that caliber of player. I can’t speak for the Lakers, but they went with what they felt was best for them. And all due respect to them. No hard feelings. No animosity, but I just look at it as part of the game. A deal is never done until it’s done. I learned that. It just didn’t work out. I’m just happy I’m in Chicago.”
It’s certainly interesting to wonder what the Lakers look like with DeRozan rather than Westbrook, particularly if it also would’ve allowed them to land someone else — i.e., whether DeRozan’s addition would’ve been part of a larger plan that also could’ve netted Buddy Hield or even Kyle Lowry. Whether DeRozan would’ve gotten off to the kind of start he has in Chicago is a different question entirely, but for the Bulls and DeRozan, the Lakers passing on the former All-Star has certainly worked out in their favor early on. That makes two possibly “should-be” Lakers that are currently starring for the Bulls, as Alex Caruso has spoken openly about how he tried to return to L.A., only for the Lakers to refuse to come close to the offer from Chicago.
All of this will only add to Laker fan frustration that is simmering after an 8-7 start, but only time will tell if the Lakers made the wrong choice to make them a title contender again.