Bulls Q&A: DeMar DeRozan talks 4th quarter play, faking opponents, climbing the all-time scoring list

By | March 9, 2024

Bulls Q&A: DeMar DeRozan talks 4th quarter play, opponents faking, climbing the all-time scoring list originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Presented by Nationwide insurance agent Jeff Vukovich

LOS ANGELES — DeMar DeRozan grew up in Compton, California, as a fan of the Los Angeles Lakers and is a longtime student and fan of NBA history.

So when he was recently told that the next one to pass on the all-time list is Hall of Fame Lakers legend Elgin Baylor, DeRozan’s response was priceless.

“Really? Damn,” DeRozan said, pausing to collect his thoughts. “I wouldn’t have guessed that.”

DeRozan needs 53 points to pass Baylor and 69 points to pass Hall of Famer Dwyane Wade, a close friend of DeRozan and current offseason neighbor near Los Angeles.

“Oh, I can’t wait for that,” DeRozan said, smiling at the prospect of light-hearted bragging about a player he deeply respects. “As soon as I pass him, I’ll let him know.”

DeRozan will likely go to the Hall of Fame himself one day. And he has long been an elite and efficient scorer. But what he’s doing on this current 3-0 trip for the Chicago Bulls, which concludes Saturday against the Los Angeles Clippers, is something special.

DeRozan scored 19 points in the fourth quarter of Monday’s win over the Sacramento Kings, icing the game with two free throws with 3.5 seconds left.

He scored 17 points in the fourth quarter Wednesday at Utah, sinking the lead free throws with 9.3 seconds left.

And he pushed the Bulls ahead for good against the Warriors on Thursday by making a ridiculous and-one with 26 seconds left, pumping Jonathan Kuminga into the air with his patented move. For good measure, DeRozan added two free throws with 2.1 seconds left to finish with nine points in the fourth quarter.

DeRozan is averaging 15 points on 66.7 percent shooting, including 92.3 percent from the line, through the three fourth quarters this trip.

“DeMar is one of the best closers in the game,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “It’s been around for ten years.”

DeRozan, at fifteene season, recently spoke with NBC Sports Chicago to talk about climbing the NBA’s all-time scoring list — he’s currently 35e—his attacking approach late in games and more.

This conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

NBC Sports Chicago: How often do you look at the all-time scoring list?

DeRozan: When I got to 23,000 points, I didn’t check to see if I had passed anyone. Last I checked it was when Steph (Curry) passed someone. And I know Steph and I were neck and neck.

You’re right behind Elgin Baylor.

Really and truly? Damn. I wouldn’t have guessed that one.

I know that was before your Laker fandom started. But you’re such a fan of the game’s history, so what would that mean to you?

I mean, just seeing these names, passing these guys who are so historically entrenched in the game of basketball, it never gets old. It is more than an honor to pass these greats. It’s something I never take for granted. It’s a cool thing. It’s internally cool that people I’m close with brag. That makes it fun.

Speaking of people you’re close to, next up after Elgin Baylor is your newest guest from your “Dinners with DeMar” mental health series, DWade.

Oh, I can’t wait for that. I can’t wait to pass him. As soon as I pass him, I’ll let him know.

All joking aside, I know you have a lot of respect for DWade, right?

Man, DWade was by far the toughest guy to guard when I came into the league. Being a two and coming into the Eastern Conference, I had to see him so much early in my career. When he got the chance to play against him in the 2016 playoffs, the way he played the game was so incredible. He was so physical, so fast. He had a drive that showed why he is one of the best to ever do it. It’s more than an honor. I grew up watching him play. So being able to have a friendship with him means so much more to me. I can ask him so many questions for advice on late career decisions. I remember talking to him when I came to Chicago and talking about what it’s like to play for that city. So to get the opportunity to pass someone that I admire, played in All-Star games with, fought against, and have a great relationship with is definitely cool. It means a lot.

To what extent do you take pride in being able to deliver in your biggest moments?

It’s everything to me. As much as I study and watch the game of basketball, understand runs, understand opportunities, understand places, have self-confidence, everything comes into play in those moments. Those opportunities, you try to enjoy them. That (Kings game) was a game where we did it as a team and I tried to do my best in the fourth quarter. When I came in at halftime I had to hear it from my teammates, I only shot once. Just getting it out meant a lot.

You’ve been such an elite and efficient goal scorer for so long. How do you keep it fresh?

I watched the match so many times. I may not see much opportunity when I watch someone else play, how he or she can get a bucket, get to the free throw line or get to a spot. Or how the defense might play late in the game. You pick and choose those moments. I watch so much basketball. And I look at so many of those late-game situations and hitting spots. It makes me want to be in those moments again. Even (Tuesday) night, when you watch the Denver-Phoenix game, you see KD (Kevin Durant) having one big opportunity after another. You understand how big those moments are. So you play these mental gymnastics games so that it becomes entertaining.

How much satisfaction do you get from still making guys bite on that fake pump? You recently got Jarrett Allen to force overtime against Cleveland. But do you also get veterans?

It is large. And it is a feeling. Early in the game I pay attention to the players on the bench and the coaching staff who say: ‘Stay down. Don’t jump.’ I think it will become something obvious. Then I tell myself, if I reach a spot two or three times in a row and make a shot, they will want to jump no matter what they are told. At those moments it becomes a game of chess for me. And I always find amusement in it when I can still get it done even though they know it’s coming.

You shoot the second most three-pointers per game of your career. And while you’re never going to be a high-volume guy, it seems like you put more effort into showing off that shot?

I said it before the season: it’s definitely something I have to take into account, but I’m also a pick-my-spots guy. There may be times when I think, “I want to shoot eight or nine threes a night.” But I feel so comfortable in the many positions where I can show my game. But if the 3 are there, I’m not shy about taking the right one. I enjoy taking them. I’m definitely more aware of it this year because I’m big on doing what’s asked of me.

What is it like to play in this day and age when so many of your peers are climbing the all-time top scorers list?

It’s something special. Because when you sit back, I realize I’ve played against some of the greatest scorers in this league. To still be playing and passing guys is beyond amazing. Steph, James (Harden), Russ (Westbrook), KD, we’re all in the top-35 of all time. It only really dawns on me when I take a good look at it during the offseason. And that’s not due to an accident. It involves hard work, sacrifice and a lot of pain. So it’s definitely something that’s cool.

And 40,000 points from LeBron James?

I recently told someone that when I passed 23,000, I went home and realized this guy has 40,000. Like, come on man. I don’t think anyone will ever break that. It’s the most incredible thing you can ever experience. Props to LeBron for being dominant for 21 years.

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