One of the most sought-after free agents on the open market was Los Angeles native DeMar DeRozan. The former USC star had made a name for himself as the face of the Toronto Raptors franchise and had the opportunity to return home to play for the team that he loved growing up, the Los Angeles Lakers.
With the Lakers hoping to land a big-name free agent, DeRozan fit the bill as a hometown player and a two-time All-Star. Although there were rumors of DeRozan strongly considering returning to Los Angeles to sign with the Lakers, the then-26-year-old quickly re-signed with the Raptors after hitting free agency.
Although DeRozan decided to stay with the team he’s played with throughout his entire NBA career, the NBA veteran from Compton admitted it was difficult not to return home in an interview with Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated:
You could have gone home in free agency. You could have gone to the Lakers or the Clippers. Was it hard for you to say no to going home?
Yeah, of course. At the end of the day, the Lakers are the Lakers. I grew up a Lakers fan. Kobe [Bryant] was my favorite player growing up. I didn’t miss a game as a kid. Just to have the opportunity was amazing. I watched one of my favorite players create a legacy of his own and leave his mark there.
He left his own mark there. It will always be there. I want to leave my own mark in Toronto.
Since making his decision to stay in Toronto, DeRozan has been a man possessed for the Raptors during the 2016-17 NBA season. DeRozan has taken his game to the next level averaging 30.9 points per game ahead of the Raptors’ showdown with the Houston Rockets on Wednesday.
DeRozan sits only behind superstar Russell Westbrook (31.8) of the Oklahoma City Thunder in the race for the scoring title. Ironic considering both players are from Los Angeles, have both been linked the Lakers consistently over the past few years, and went to USC and UCLA respectively.
Regardless of DeRozan’s decision to remain with the Raptors, the Lakers have gotten off to an impressive start to the season. New head coach Luke Walton has this team back on track with the entire team buying into his system with a resilient spirit that hasn’t been seen from this team in years.