Some have said it seems like all hope is lost for the Los Angeles Lakers to acquire DeMar DeRozan in NBA free agency. However, if you listen closely to his recent interview with Shannon Sharpe, this is still the exact kind of situation DeRozan would accept.
DeRozan shared a lot during that interview, which alluded to joining forces with his hometown Lakers.
Logistically it can still happen if DeRozan is willing to take the taxpayer mid-level exception of $5.9 million. Why would a star do this while still in his prime?
Check out these three reasons below, and it might make a bit more sense.
1. Deep California Roots
DeMar DeRozan lives and breathes Compton and California. DeRozan grew up in California as a die-hard Lakers/Kobe Bryant fan, having never shied away from his deep admiration for Kobe.
DeRozan even penned an article for the Los Angeles Times on the fifth anniversary of Kobe’s final game, saying it was like an Avengers movie and has spoken on the impact of Kobe’s 81-point game multiple times. He has also been mentored by Kobe, even hitting game-winners that looked nearly interchangeable between the two stars.
Not only has DeRozan been interviewed about how much Kendrick Lamar’s iconic song, “Sing About Me,” means to him, but he even attended a Compton Peace Walk during the summer of 2020 with Lamar and the newest Laker: Russell Westbrook. DeRozan and Westbrook are longtime friends, having grown up in California together and went to college in their home state.
Westbrook went to UCLA while DeRozan has undoubtedly performed the best at the professional level of any USC alum, although Evan Mobley may give him a run for his money. He even has the DeMar DeRozan Gymnasium named after him in his hometown of Compton and recently funded a new weight room for his alma mater USC Trojans.
2. That Interview With Shannon Sharpe
DeRozan opened up a great deal in his appearance on the Club Shay Shay podcast with Shannon Sharpe. He even spoke on how much it would mean to play for his hometown Lakers and couldn’t hold back his joy in playing for them.
“You’d love to have the opportunity to play at home, especially if they want you, why not? I think it would work [between me, LeBron & AD],” DeRozan said. “We’re smart basketball players and it’s all about coming together.”
The taxpayer mid-level exception is still in play based on comments DeRozan made about where he’s at in his career. DeRozan also elaborated on his desire to win a championship over making more money:
“It’s all about winning at this point,” DeRozan said. “Going into my 13th season, seeing these guys compete for a championship […] you try to balance it as best as you can (winning and making money) but at this point you gotta weigh out the opportunity of winning a championship more. Especially with the career I’ve had, I’ve been fortunate to make a lot of money, but at this point the ultimate goal is always to compete for a championship.”
3. Basketball Fit
Ah yes, the all-important question. How could this possibly work?
In the aforementioned interview with Shannon Sharpe, DeMar DeRozan addressed this by referring to how Brooklyn figured it out by gathering talent first and worrying about fit later.
“It’s definitely possible to work. It’s all about just coming together. We all smart, great basketball players,” said DeRozan.
Many people have already expressed concerns about potential spacing issues if this were actually to happen, but LeBron had previously spoken with DeRozan about potentially teaming up, and it’s becoming clear that LeBron always discusses fit in these situations. With DeRozan, the roster would have four All-Stars, none of which are elite 3-point shooters.
However, the last two championships were won by teams that weren’t amazing at 3-point shooting, including the 2020 NBA championship but had solid ball movement. DeRozan averaged a career-high 6.9 assists. Not only that, but Devin Booker, Chris Paul, Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo were primarily scoring from inside or within the mid-range area.
This plays to DeRozan’s strengths and having the four All-Stars of DeRozan, Westbrook, LeBron and Anthony Davis on the Lakers could create coverage nightmares for teams, which would open up the necessary space for them to get to their spots and score. Of course, the team would have to be rounded out with 3-point shooters and solid defenders, but who wouldn’t want to team up with these four, including a motivated DeRozan playing for his home team.