DeRozan collected motivation along his journey to becoming all-star with Bulls

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Bulls forward DeMar DeRozan (11) scores against the Orlando Magic in the second half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022, in Orlando, Fla. Orlando won the game 114-95.

    Chicago Bulls forward DeMar DeRozan (11) scores against the Orlando Magic in the second half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022, in Orlando, Fla. Orlando won the game 114-95. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 1/27/2022 9:52 PM

DeMar DeRozan found out he officially was named an All-Star Game starter while on a flight to San Antonio early Thursday evening.

Technically, the honor was no surprise. He led the East guards by more than 2 million votes when the last returns were released. The suspense was whether teammate Zach LaVine would be named a starter and he was not, finishing a close third to Atlanta's Trae Young.

 

But the plane ride to San Antonio provided some strong symbolism, since he was traded from Toronto to the Spurs in 2018. The Raptors thought they had a better chance to win a title with Kawhi Leonard and it worked out for them.

While leading the Bulls to surprising levels of improvement this season, how much did that trade still burn? At the time, DeRozan wanted to play his full career in Toronto.

"From Day 1 when I first came in this league, I always look for elements I can use to drive myself," DeRozan said Thursday. "That's always going to be in me, whether it's me getting traded, whether it's me not being able to do something as a rookie, whatever it might be.

"As long as I play this game, I'm going to find some type of mental edge that will continue to drive me. And if it didn't, I wouldn't even play the game. So for me I use any type of motivation I can find throughout my whole career as long as I play this game."

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This will be the fifth all-star appearance for DeRozan, third as a starter. The East frontcourt starters are Brooklyn's Kevin Durant, who probably won't play due to a knee injury; Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo and Philadelphia's Joel Embiid.

The Bulls released a video of LaVine grabbing the intercom microphone and making the announcement on the team plane.

"It was crazy. I don't even know how he figured out how to do it," DeRozan said. "But his announcement was definitely funny. Flight 8, whatever he said. It was cool.

"He woke up a lot of people on the plane, made them turn on the light and everything. So that was the funny part about it, and just getting congratulations from my teammate was dope."

The Bulls landed DeRozan in a sign-and-trade deal with San Antonio and gave him a three-year contract this summer. He was the type of veteran mentor the team had lacked, but some national reporters disparaged the move. Others have suggested DeRozan is the wrong fit for today's NBA because he rarely shoots 3-pointers.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

As of Thursday, he was the league's sixth-leading scorer at 26.4 points. DeRozan is second behind Antetokounmpo in points scored in the fourth quarter.

"It was tough, hearing all the critics, the criticism about your game, this, that, this, that," DeRozan said. "But I just stayed true to myself, and this is just a true testament, moments like this, to players everywhere. Never lose confidence in your ability and your work ethic and what you put into this game because it definitely will give it back to you."

On the TNT selection show, Charles Barkley said he thought LaVine and DeRozan should have been the starters. The players vote had LaVine ahead of Young. LaVine seems a lock to be chosen as a reserve next week.

The West starters are the Lakers' LeBron James, Denver's Nikola Jokic, Memphis' Ja Morant, along with Golden State's Steph Curry and Andrew Wiggins.

The All-Star Game will be held in Cleveland on Feb. 20. The leading vote-getters, James and Durant, were named captains and will pick the teams.

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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