The Chicago Bulls made a statement in free agency when it brought in Lonzo Ball and DeMar DeRozan through two different sign-and-trades in the first few days of free agency. The move to sign DeRozan to a three-year, $85 million contract brought about some mixed reviews on the move, considering DeRozan’s 31 years old and is three years removed from his last All-Star appearance when he was still a member of the Toronto Raptors.
However, the Bulls are in win-now mode, as well as trying to convince franchise star Zach LaVine to stay in Chicago instead of potentially bolting in free agency next summer. Chicago had to make moves to surround LaVine with more talent, which started back at the trade deadline when the franchise shipped off several young pieces to bring in All-Star forward NIkola Vucevic. On paper, Chicago’s roster has considerably more talent with a nucleus of LaVine, DeRozan, Ball, Vucevic and the addition of Alex Caruso. But that still doesn’t mean that there aren’t questions about the fit of DeRozan with LaVine, something the four-time All-Star isn’t too concerned about.
“Lot of people I see criticizing, talking about ‘fit this, fit that’ have probably never even played basketball,” DeRozan said during his introductory press conference with the Bulls. “Being a basketball player, you go out, play at the park. Some of your best is against guys you don’t even know that you go out there and compete with. But for me, if everybody is on the same page mentality and wants to win, it don’t matter about a fit. Because it’s all gonna come together how it needs to come together and make it work because at the end of the day the common denominator is winning.
“If you have that mentality going into it, everything will figure out how it needs to be figured out in the process, and that’s where chemistry is built. I never really get caught up in all this stuff about, ‘Oh, this fit. This, this, this.’ End of the day, you bring that mentality of winning and everything gonna come together how it need to come together.”
If you’re the Bulls, that’s about as good an answer as you could want out of your new shooting guard. DeRozan knows that things will need to be worked out in order to figure out how to best utilize a lineup featuring him and LaVine, who both play the same position. While DeRozan played some minutes at small forward, and even at power forward in small-ball lineups with the Spurs the past couple of seasons, standing at 6-6 puts him at a disadvantage on the other end of the floor against bigger forwards.
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There’s also the question of how will LaVine and DeRozan adjust to ultimately not having the ball in their hands as much now that Ball will be the orchestrator on offense as an elite pass-first floor general. DeRozan and LaVine have made their careers off having the ball in their hands for a significant portion of time, so it will be an adjustment for both players to relinquish some control in that aspect.
“Since I’ve been in the league, I’ve had motivation after motivation, critic, doubters, naysayers,” DeRozan said. “As a competitor, you definitely feed off it. I definitely hear it. My whole motto my whole career is to be the person not to prove them wrong, but to prove myself right with my work ethic and the way to approach the game and the obstacles and everything that I’ve been through and just leave it out there all on the table. It’s another challenge that I’m looking forward to, probably one of my biggest in my career. At the end of the day, I want to have the last laugh. I want to do it with a group of guys that kind of been through similar obstacles in their careers as well. It’ll definitely be shown.”
The Bulls will be one of the most intriguing teams to watch this season after their additions in the offseason. If this team can figure out how to generate wins with all the talent on that roster, Chicago could be making a trip back to the playoffs for the first time since 2017.