In load management era, Bulls' DeMar DeRozan set to hit milestone

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Durable DeRozan set to play in 1,000th career game originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The next time DeMar DeRozan takes the court---and it’s an extremely safe bet that’s for Monday’s home game against the Atlanta Hawks---he will play his 1,000th career game.

“Really?” DeRozan said. “Wow, I mean, I didn’t even think of that.”

Now, in DeRozan’s defense, those words came in a sitdown with NBC Sports Chicago in San Francisco from early December, when DeRozan sat at 978 games.

But in a lot of ways, the answer wouldn’t surprise if it came following the Chicago Bulls' game in Paris, which marked his 999th. Because in DeRozan’s mind, the next game is always the destination and the focus.

The milestones and honors that pile up along the way? They’re just byproducts of a work ethic and appreciation for sports that DeRozan learned from his parents.

“My Dad was always constantly watching sports. I wanted to be like my Dad, so I was conscious of him paying attention to sports,” DeRozan said in the sitdown. “I remember my Dad getting the newspaper every morning. And I’d look at the box scores of who did what. I always wanted to know what was what. My love for the history of the game started from then.”

DeRozan would listen to Chick Hearn broadcast Los Angeles Lakers game, consumed with everything the gold and purple did.

And now DeRozan is making history of his own this season. In October, he became the 50th player in NBA history and 54th when ABA stats are factored in to reach 20,000 points.

After his next game, he will be the 143rd NBA player and 151st overall counting ABA action to play in 1,000 games.

“You just saying that is a humbling thing, especially for me understanding the history of the game. Some players don’t the chance to even come close to that,” DeRozan said. “Just to have that opportunity to get there---knock on wood---it’s a helluva milestone. It’s a lot of games.

“I have never, ever taken this for granted. That’s one thing I stress to the younger guys now. I look back on my career, the amount of players I played with that just kind of suddenly disappear in the wind. As much as I love this game, when you look at it from that perspective, the game can be taken away from you at any minute.”

In fact, DeRozan shared memories of the time he was sleeping on his Mom’s couch at age 22 during the 2011 lockout, wondering when the next game might be. Or going through the 2020 pandemic shutdown and having his season with the San Antonio Spurs cut short at 68 games without an appearance in the so-called Orlando Bubble when the league resumed.

“I always appreciate just being able to play this game,” DeRozan said. “We never know how long we have.”

That’s why DeRozan disliked sitting out three games recently with the minor strained right quad that he suffered in Boston on Jan. 9.

Some veterans might like the week off during the midway point of the season. Not DeRozan.

“That’s me being able to play against that old era of the NBA,” he said. “It’s crazy, I was telling the young guys just the other day: When I first came into this league, you couldn’t sit out a practice or game or your spot was gone. That was the mentality. If you’re hurt, you better figure out how you’re going to play.

“Even in college, I remember the first day of practice at USC, I got hurt. And (then-USC coach) Tim Floyd told me, ‘If you don’t practice, I don’t know when you’re going to play.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, hell, I’m going to play through this.’ That’s just always been my mentality.

“Some of my favorite players hardly ever missed games. I always try to take care of myself as best I can because I want to play every single game. I always want to be the guy you can count on every single night to be out there. And I want my teammates to feel that as well.”

Soon, his teammates will have felt that for the 1,000th time.

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