'I'm always for it': DeMar DeRozan looks ahead to 2024 Paris, retiring in Chicago, his new book, mentoring Bronny James and more (Exclusive)
DeMar DeRozan scoffed at the idea, and the topic delved into something deeper than if he will ever become a willing 3-point shooter.
In a calm, albeit confident tone, DeRozan addressed a subject matter that some Chicago Bulls fans have pondered after the team failed last season to advance past the NBA Play-in Tournament. Amid the Bulls’ inconsistency with their play and health, some have concluded the organization should cut its losses and begin the rebuilding process.
“I think a lot of people who say that or suggest that really don’t understand basketball at all, in my opinion,” DeRozan told Sportskeeda. “You can think that’s an answer or that’s a route. But there’s no telling how long that route is going to even last.”
DeRozan spoke to Sportskeeda on a number of topics, including the Bulls’ trajectory this season, his long-term future with the Bulls, his interest in the 2024 Paris Olympics, his upcoming “Dinners with DeMar” and book project and more.
Editor’s note: The following one-on-one interview has been condensed and edited.
How has the offseason treated you?
“Pretty much working out and being a full-time dad more than anything. I’m working out and hanging out with my kids as much as I can. It’s nothing too crazy.”
What’s full-time dad life like?
“It’s always fun being able to be with my kids and watching them grow. I’m watching them learn new things and do new things. That’s the most exciting part. They’re doing a little bit of everything. My oldest daughter (Diar, 10) has been playing basketball and really getting involved with that. It’s been cool to watch. My second oldest daughter (Mari, seven) is doing the same thing, but is also into gymnastics. My son (Zino, one) has become more active and I’ve had him go to the gym with me when I work out. He picks up the ball and plays with the basketball. With my other two youngest daughters (Dayah; two Reason; one), I watch them be bad toward each other. I think every element of my five children is very entertaining and enlightening to see."
Do you coach them or stay out of the way?
(laughs) “I’m the one to stay out of the way and let them be kids as long as they can be kids.”
How did your offseason prep this summer compare to other years?
“Just understanding the toll that a season can take on you. Just taking the approach with understanding recovery and making your body all the way right and all the way together with your strength and conditioning. It gets to a point where it becomes more than just basketball and becomes more of a physical understanding that you have to be healthy and strong enough to be able to withstand an 82-game season, especially going into my 15th year.”
What did your recovery and training look like?
“It was about trying to do low-impact contact things as much as possible. Whether it was pool workouts, running on the beach or being in the weight room doing a lot of different dynamic workouts and stretching. On the court, that’s the natural part of it. That’s second nature. No matter what you do, it’s all muscle memory. After this much time, it’s not hard to catch on to anything basketball-wise.”
You said at the end of the season that you would shoot more 3s, but also noted your strength in the mid-range game. Given that you averaged under two per game last season, do you have an ideal number in mind that will hit the sweet spot with expanding your game without compromising what do you best?
“I’m pretty sure I will [take more 3s], but I wouldn’t put a number on it. It may be more. But it may be less. You know what I mean? That’s one thing definitely on my mind. I understand about taking what the defense gives me. I won’t go in there and predetermine and premeditate anything. There will definitely be more [3s]. But I wouldn’t put a number on it.”
The Bulls missed the playoffs last season. Lonzo Ball is expected to miss this upcoming season with his left knee injury for a second consecutive season. But even with the tough landscape, what are your expectations on what the Bulls can accomplish with a core around you, [Zach] LaVine, [Nikola] Vucevic, [Alex] Caruso, and a handful of young players?
“I think we can accomplish it all. From a lot of mistakes we had and ups and downs last season, it’s about understanding that and knowing how to correct that. That will make us even better than we were last season. We were pretty good, but we were too inconsistent. I think addressing a lot of the flaws that we had last season come next week in training camp will be the start of that. How much we correct that will determine how good we can be. I definitely think we can be extremely good.”
Some Bulls fans have concluded that because of the team’s injuries and inconsistency, it’s better for the organization to cut its losses and start a tear-down rebuild. What do you think of that analysis?
“I think a lot of people who say that or suggest that really don’t understand basketball at all, in my opinion. You can think that’s an answer or that’s a route. But there’s no telling how long that route is going to even last. That route doesn’t necessarily always work in a timely fashion that you may think it will take. With that, it’s hard to find and create talented players like the players that we already have assembled. We made a lot of mistakes. It’s not only on the players, but the coaching staff as well to be able to correct the mistakes that we have because we weren’t far off at all with the mistakes that we’ve had."
"If we correct those, give us back the 10 to 15 games that we should’ve had last season. That changes the whole dynamic of everything. It’s always easy when something goes bad just to say, ‘Scratch it.’ But you really don’t know where you’ll end up from there. So when I hear people say that, it lets me know and understand that they don’t understand basketball at all. From my standpoint, you just control what you can control. That’s going out there, working your butt off, being a leader and understanding what needs to be corrected and go from there.”
Health aside, what do you think needs to be corrected?
“It’s just being more in tune offensively and defensively than we were last season. We had a lot of great moments. But we didn’t sustain those great moments. Once we understand the sustainability with what it takes to win, that will make us better. We have what it takes. It’s just about understanding and knowing we have to do things to sustain a winning culture. Once we implement that, we’ll be much better.”
[Bulls GM] Marc Eversley told the Athletic recently, “I’d love DeMar to be part of the program long term.’ Where do things stand with any extension talks and your overall feeling on if you see the Bulls as a long-term fit?
“That’s a place I want to be and end my career. I want to be able to accomplish everything I’ve set out to accomplish. That’s all I can worry about and control. I have the utmost confidence in myself. I’ll let my agent and the organization deal with that side of things, to be honest man. From their standpoint, they want me to be there long-term and vice versa. We’ll see what happens from there.”
What’s your interest level in being part of the 2024 Paris Olympics?
“I’m always for it. I’d love to be a part of it. I’d love to be able to represent the country again. It’s definitely an honor. If I’m asked or part of the pool that can compete for it, I’m definitely in.”
How did the idea come up for you to host “Dinners with DeMar?”
“Those ideas sparked from stepping out of the box and being inspired and trying to get into new things that fit you. I want to get and share information from people that can give insight on what things are like on an everyday basis outside of being an entertainer or athlete. That was one thing I always wanted to be a part of and help people get a better understanding of their favorite players athletes or entertainers. It stemmed from there. But the idea and inspiration of it will continue to grow.”
I understand you have a book project, too. Where does that stand?
“The book was shopped. With me having a story of my life, I wanted to put it into book form. I thought it would be a cool little thing to create a book and share your emotions. That was an appealing idea – to do something with such a story that I have. At 34, I’m able to put my emotions, thoughts and experiences in a book.”
When will it be released?
“Hopefully at the top of next year.”
There’s a lot of layers to your story with your on-court success, growing up in LA, being an advocate for mental health and losing your dad. What’s your hope on what people will get out of both the docuseries and the book?
“Breaking the stigma with being okay with being vulnerable and being able to express your story and finding inspiration and strength through it. I want it to be known that it’s okay to share your story and not hold it in and let it build up so that it implodes.”
Have you also thought of doing a podcast?
"Yeah, but that’s what made me want to come up with ‘Dinners with DeMar.’ It’s a different look. So many people do podcasts. I wanted to have a natural and intimate setting from the standpoint of sitting down with someone and having more of a natural conversation. It’s like a question-and-answer type of thing that you see in a podcast. It’s natural conversations you can have with friends at a dinner table. So I’m trying to give it a different look.”
In light of the Drew League’s 50-year anniversary, what do you make of your whole LA journey with being one of the native NBA stars and leaving a trail for others to follow?
DeRozan: “It just shows the melting pot of Los Angeles basketball with how many great individuals have come from LA. We have the capability and opportunities when it came to basketball so we could inspire the younger generation to follow in our steps and create something even bigger and better. To see that means a lot. We did the same thing with the generation before us. That’s what it’s all about, and that’s the beauty of what sports can bring to a culture, city and state.”
Bronny James has his dad, but have you been much of a mentor to him as he’s played in LA at the prep level and about to go to USC?
“I definitely support not just him but the program as much as I can. I try to attend as many practices and be a support system and be within arm’s reach if needed. But no doubt, he has the greatest mentor anyone can have with his dad. The relationship and support that I give all of those young guys is definitely there.”
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