The new Bulls: DeRozan excited for challenge, Ball back on point
No matter how much they paid to get him, DeMar DeRozan is exactly what the Bulls need -- someone with winning experience who can be the NBA mentor Zach LaVine never had.
The Bulls introduced three of their free-agent acquisitions via Zoom call on Friday. If DeRozan was disappointed to end up on the Bulls instead of the Lakers, Clippers, Heat or some other team with better title chances, he didn't show it.
"It's another challenge that I'm looking forward to, probably one of my biggest in my career," he said. "At the end of the day, I want to have the last laugh. And I want to do it with a group of guys that kind of been through similar obstacles in their careers as well."
DeRozan, with his 12 years of NBA experience, definitely stands out on the Bulls revamped roster. He was part of a Toronto team that regularly won 50 games and advanced to the conference finals.
Zach LaVine, newcomer Lonzo Ball and obviously Coby White and Patrick Williams have never been to the playoffs. DeRozan's former Toronto teammate Kyle Lowry was in high demand this summer because teams think he can make the same sort of positive impact Chris Paul did in Phoenix.
What about DeRozan, can his veteran presence turn the Bulls into a winner?
"Experience definitely is key," DeRozan said. "It goes a long way. It goes longer, further than a lot of people may realize. With the experience of the successes, the failures, everything that I went through; just understanding ... what it takes to really go over those humps.
"The tough days where stuff is going bad, when a game or two is off track, how to put things back in place, how to get guys back together. To your question, for sure, without a doubt."
The new-look Bulls certainly have a Los Angeles vibe. DeRozan grew up in Compton, Ball and LaVine both spent a year at UCLA, and another Bulls addition is former Lakers super sub Alex Caruso.
DeRozan played on a USC team in 2008-09 with new Bulls teammate Nikola Vucevic. That squad also included Taj Gibson and was coached by Tim Floyd.
"Every guy when I look at that roster has a chip on their shoulders," DeRozan said. "Me knowing Vuc since college, I know what type of player he is, how bad he wants to win. Zach wanting to be on that main stage and wanting to compete for something much more than just stats during the season.
"Myself, I always carried a chip on my shoulder. And Lonzo putting all those mentalities together. Even Caruso coming from a winning program. It's so much there that could bring so much potential. And it was just something that was appealing to me that I wanted to be a part of, let alone being in Chicago, one of the greatest cities in the NBA."
Ball is from Chino Hills, Calif., west of L.A., where he played on one of the most renowned high school teams of recent years, along with his two younger brothers and current Atlanta Hawks center Onyeka Okongwu.
"I first met Zach when I was being recruited to come to UCLA," Ball said. "So I used to watch him play all the time. Just going out there and sitting down with my family and stuff in the recruiting section, and he was like a human highlight reel, so that's when the bond kind of started."
Ball talked about how New Orleans basically moved him off the ball last year and used Eric Bledsoe at the point. So he's looking forward to playing his natural position again.
"It was different. It was kind of like I was a 3-and-D guy," Ball said. "I didn't take it as a demotion. They believed that was the best for the team, so I just went with it. I'm not the type of guy that's going to pout or go hide in the corner. I think it ultimately did help me grow as a player."
DeRozan and Ball were both sign-and-trade deals. The Bulls sent Thad Young, Al-Farouq Aminu, along with first-and second-round draft picks to San Antonio for DeRozan, while the Pelicans received Tomas Satoransky and Garrett Temple.
The Bulls signed Caruso with their midlevel exception and also added backup center Tony Bradley. The final step to the summer makeover is finding a new home for Lauri Markkanen in a sign-and-trade, although there might be a slight chance he stays with the Bulls, at least temporarily.
There's been talk about how this group will fit together. LaVine, Vucevic and DeRozan all have multiple years of averaging 20 points per game.
The success of recent NBA "superteams" seemed to prove talent matters more than fitting players into roles. The Bulls group is not a superteam, but it's a whole lot better than what they've had since the rebuild began in 2017.
"For me, if everybody's on the same page mentality and want to win, it don't matter about the fit, because it's all going to come together the way it needs to come together to make it work," DeRozan said. "Because at the end of the day, the common denominator is winning."