DeMar DeRozan played angry in 2021.
The Chicago Bulls star told J.J. Redick on “The Old Man and The Three” podcast this week that he made it his mission to play better against teams that offered him bad deals during the offseason. He wouldn’t name names, but DeRozan said a few teams offered him the veteran’s minimum or the mid-level exception. And that disrespect motivated him.
“It pissed me off,” DeRozan said. “I tried to make it evident, especially when I play certain teams. … It’s easy to tell because I made it a personal vendetta against a handful of teams for sure. It’s obvious. It was a great motivational effort that I took from it.
“Going into the season, the quote I kept reading every single day was a quote from ‘The Godfather’: ‘Revenge is best served cold.’ And I stuck with that. That was my whole mentality every time I went out to play.”
Now, we could go back at DeRozan’s game log as Redick suggested (and someone actually did) to determine which teams DeRozan could possibly be referencing here. But regardless, DeRozan still finished this past season with a career-high 27.9 points per game and shot 35.2% from 3-point range. He finished second in total points with 2,118. He played like a man on a mission — not just to beat the teams that lowballed him, but to prove he was still an elite player.
The two teams everyone knows DeRozan probably circled on his schedule were the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers. Not only are they both his hometown teams, but DeRozan told Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes in November that “both L.A. teams were definitely a big possibility for me” and went so far as to say he “felt like going to the Lakers was a done deal.” DeRozan added “the business side of things just didn’t work out” for the Lakers, but later told Redick everything fell apart when Los Angeles traded for Russell Westbrook.
“I’m looking at my phone like, ‘Damn, that did happen. Well, I guess that’s out the window.’ ” DeRozan said on Redick’s podcast. “In my mind, that was the only option for me to go to. I was sold on that. Done deal. I didn’t even entertain anything else because I’m letting this situation work itself out. So when I see the trade happen I knew there was no way for me to go to the Lakers at this point. So now it was a scramble mode.”
That eventually led DeRozan to Chicago, a team he said was one of his top-three choices. DeRozan’s only concerns with the Bulls were their point guard situation and if Zach LaVine wanted to stay in Chicago. After LaVine confirmed to DeRozan he would re-sign and the Bulls completed a sign-and-trade for Lonzo Ball, DeRozan landed in Chicago in a sign-and-trade from the San Antonio Spurs.
The Bulls finished the 2021 season at the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference but fell to the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round of the playoffs.
For what it’s worth, DeRozan scored at least 30 points against almost half of the teams in the NBA. However, he did also score 38 points against the Lakers twice and added 50- and a 35-point performances against the Clippers. The Bulls also won all four contests against the L.A. teams.
Do with that information as you will.