DeMar DeRozan may have landed with the Chicago Bulls in free agency, but they weren’t his first choice. No, the Los Angeles native worked feverishly to set up a homecoming the Lakers. He was a fan of the team growing up, spoke about how flattering it was to be mentioned in trade rumors involving his childhood team and reports even hinted that he’d take a pay cut to wear the purple and gold.
He met with LeBron James multiple times throughout the offseason. The Lakers and Spurs discussed possible trade packages. For a moment, it truly appeared as if DeRozan would team up with James and Anthony Davis to try to help bring the Lakers back to the Finals.
“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 Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports on Monday. “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.”
Unbeknownst to DeRozan, the Lakers ultimately moved on to other targets. They first set their sights on Buddy Hield before ultimately landing Russell Westbrook. Both were under contract with their previous teams, which made acquiring them substantially easier for the Lakers. Neither would trigger a hard cap. Neither needed to negotiate a new contract. So the Lakers went in another direction. At that point, he briefly turned his attention to the Clippers.
“They didn’t have much, but it was a conversation that was brought up and it didn’t get as far as the Lakers’ situation,” DeRozan said. “Both L.A. teams were definitely a big possibility for me.”
The Clippers faced the same hard-cap dilemma as the Lakers, but with even more money on the books, they simply lacked the resources to make DeRozan an offer anywhere near the $85 million pact he signed with the Bulls. The move has ultimately worked out well for him. Chicago is 10-4 in its first 14 games. DeRozan looks primed to make his first All-Star team since 2018 by averaging nearly 27 points per game. Even if he didn’t make it to Los Angeles, the offseason worked out well for him. He managed to join a better team than the one he left for a higher salary than he was previously making and is putting up significantly better numbers in the process.
The Lakers, meanwhile, are 8-7 and struggling through a number of injuries. LeBron James has played in only six games. Westbrook is having one of his worst seasons as a professional. It’s too early to say that the Lakers made a mistake trading for Westbrook, but what has become clear is that the choice between the two was theirs to make. They picked Westbrook, and for better or worse, they’ll have to live with the consequences.