The Chicago Bulls don’t need a holiday to be thankful for DeMar DeRozan.
“He’s an unbelievable player,” coach Billy Donovan said. “Obviously, you guys see the shotmaking ability. To me, it’s just there’s a lot that goes into it that’s so impressive. One, it’s the internal competitiveness and drive to want to be great, to want to win. And the only thing that matters to him is winning.
“The second thing is his detail to which he works out and watches film and studies the game. He puts the work in. And the third part is just his IQ and his calmness and his pace and his demeanor in those moments. He really is a special player on a lot of levels.
“And then you couple that with the fact that he’s just an unbelievable human being and a great guy who is the same person every day and does whatever he can to help the group of players and individual guys, he’s very unique. He has so many incredible qualities that make him the level of player that he is.”
DeRozan certainly has authored more impressive and more dominant performances than the 36 points, eight assists, four rebounds, two blocks and one steal he posted in the Bulls’ gritty road victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night.
But given the context that it came after another impressive victory over the Boston Celtics had snapped a four-game skid---and given the defensive effort DeRozan flashed---it’s on the short list for most impactful games.
“I took it upon myself to bring energy, be aggressive and try to make that contagious,” DeRozan said.
Offensively, this played out most spectacularly right after halftime. DeRozan scored seven points in the first 59 seconds and finished the third quarter with 18 points on 7-for-9 shooting.
That this flurry led to him ultimately making the assist on Coby White’s go-ahead 3-pointer with 46.1 seconds left is a testament to his ability to read defenses. DeRozan said he even told White in the timeout huddle to be ready, that if the Bucks’ defense collapsed on him---which it did---that DeRozan would try to find White.
“It’s what makes us so dangerous. He makes the right plays and is selfless and trusts his teammates,” Alex Caruso said. “That’s what great players do.”
DeRozan is as humble as they come. So when he fielded a question on whether or not he is ever surprised by his on-court exploits, he had a simple answer.
“No,” he said.
DeRozan smiled as he said this---and then elaborated.
“I know how hard I work. I don’t mean it in a cocky way. It’s just more so that I work my butt off and try to understand how to be as efficient as possible,” he said. “I don’t take shots out of my comfort zone. Everything I take, I work on over and over and over to where it’s second nature. It’s not surprising to me.”
But DeRozan’s excellence moves beyond his on-court exploits even if, in this case, those came against an elite and physical defense that he relished competing against.
“I want to play against the best whenever I can,” he said. “That raises your level of competitiveness through the roof. It’s fun.”
No, DeRozan’s full brilliance came in his acceptance of Donovan’s personal challenge for the Bulls’ stars to play better. Instead of bristling at such a charge, DeRozan not only looked inward, he accepted it.
And then did his best to pull his teammates along with him through his actions and words.
“We gotta live up to that. Keep this group going. It’s a challenge we all accepted,” DeRozan said. “It’s fun as a competitor. You want to be challenged that way to make yourself and team better.”
That’s leadership. That’s excellence. That’s DeRozan, whom the Bulls are thankful for on a daily basis.
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