The contest marked the first time DeRozan played in LA since the death of his late father. The man who might otherwise have donned the Purple and Gold of the LA Lakers paid tribute with one of his best games of the season as the Bulls snapped the Clippers’ seven-game win streak.
DeMar DeRozan credited his father with helping guide him on his path to the NBA
DeMar DeRozan felt the sting of losing friends as a youth. Gang violence and drugs became prevalent in his adolescent and teenage years. His father, Frank, kept him on track through it all.
DeRozan sat down for an interview with NBC Sports Chicago‘s K.C. Johnson ahead of Sunday’s game with the Clippers. He spoke about his experiences growing up in Compton, calling his father a central figure who ensured DeRozan kept pursuing basketball.
“My Dad was instrumental in everything in my life. Just being a great father figure, always being there and being supportive. He’d get on me how he needed to be on me so that I could do the right thing, whether it was in school or sticking to sports. Even with the little that we had, he made sure I didnt miss basketball practice or tournaments. He kept me in the right things. And that was a positive light for me.”–DeMar DeRozan, via NBC Sports Chicago
Sadly, DeRozan lost that light this past February.
Frank DeRozan dealt with health issues over the past few years. Formerly with the San Antonio Spurs, DeMar missed a game last January to be with his father and later took to Instagram after Frank died.
Sunday’s game against the Clippers offered DeRozan the chance to play close to home, though he likely did so with a heavy heart being that the contest signified the first time he played in LA without his father. The Bulls star responded with a terrific game.
DeRozan scored 35 points in a fitting homage to his father
The Bulls came into Staples Center needing to bounce back from a blowout loss to the Golden State Warriors, though they faced a tough challenge against a Clippers team led by an underrated MVP candidate in Paul George.
DeRozan wasted little time making sure Chicago got on track.
The 32-year-old scored 12 first-quarter points to pace the Bulls to a 30-17 lead early. He finished with 21 at the end of the first half and, after a quiet third period, scored nine points in the fourth quarter — when the Bulls have typically thrived this season — to keep Chicago in command of the contest.
In all, DeRozan tallied a game-high 35 points on 12-of-16 shooting from the field. He also grabbed seven rebounds and dished out five assists as the Bulls improved to 9-4 on the season.
After the game, the Compton native spoke about his father, saying (h/t Jamal Collier of ESPN) he wished Frank DeRozan could be in attendance.
“[My Dad] was at every game… tonight was one of those games that, I wish he was here.”–DeMar DeRozan on his father
Although Frank DeRozan might not have been physically present, he seemed to be with DeMar in spirit. Surely he’d be thrilled with how his son has carried himself as a leader and standout performer on a hungry Bulls team.
DeRozan gives the Bulls a major lift on the wing
When DeRozan first signed a three-year deal worth close to $82 million, the doubters started popping up everywhere. But the four-time All-Star gives the Bulls exactly what they need.
DeRozan ranks sixth in the NBA in scoring average at 26.1 points. He and Zach LaVine have worked well in unison, as the duo tied Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen for the most consecutive games with at least 20 points each. DeRozan creates for himself off the dribble and gets to the foul line, peppering opponents with a bevy of midrange jumpers.
For all the talk of his general defensive deficiencies, DeRozan is doing his part for a team that ranks seventh in the NBA in defensive rating. He appears more energized on both ends of the floor.
The 2021-22 campaign is the first full season DeMar is playing without the presence of his father. But he’s doing everything he can to make Frank DeRozan proud.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.