Bulls wing DeMar DeRozan considers his latest All-Star appearance, his fifth overall and first since 2018, to be his favorite All-Star selection thus far, per Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago.
“It’s hard to go against the first time I was here [in 2014 while with the Raptors],” DeRozan said. “But to be here again after everything I went through, it’s sweet.”
DeRozan is in the midst of possibly his best NBA season yet, his 13th in the league. In 55 games for the 38-21 Bulls, the 32-year-old out of USC is averaging 28.1 PPG (his highest scoring average ever, fifth in the NBA this year), 5.2 RPG, and 5.1 APG, with a shooting line of .517/.343/.866.
“Over the span of my career I did a lot of learning, personally, on the court, outside the court,” the 6’6″ Bulls swingman said. “Just trying to understand a lot of dynamics of just being a man first. And a lot of that, looking in the mirror moments and understanding a lot of things is this moment now, of just me being in my complete balance.”
DeRozan also leads the NBA in fourth-quarter scoring with 443 points and counting. Schaefer writes that DeRozan is posting a clutch-time shooting line of .541/.667/.902. The Bulls are currently the second seed in the Eastern Conference, with DeRozan leading the way. He has a strong case to be a top-five MVP candidate this season.
There’s more out of the Central Division:
- Several current All-Stars heaped praise on new Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton, writes James Boyd of the Indianapolis Star. Haliburton, who participated in the All-Star weekend festivities during the Rising Stars contest and the Clutch Challenge this year, hopes to return to a future All-Star weekend for the main event. “That’s the goal,” Haliburton said of playing in the All-Star game. “Don’t know when, but eventually I’ll be back, and I’m looking forward to it.” Bulls All-Star guard Zach LaVine spoke about how Haliburton can benefit from his fresh start in Indiana. “Tyrese is off the charts, and him getting a different opportunity now in Indiana I think is gonna be big for him,” LaVine said. “Obviously getting traded and me being traded young as well [from the Timberwolves to the Bulls], you have to take it one way or another… You’re a little shell-shocked at first, but once you embrace that opportunity and go after it, I think he’s gonna be great.”
- Pacers backup point guard T.J. McConnell appears likely to miss the rest of of the 2021/22 season, per Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files. Given the original timeline projected for the 6’1″ veteran’s recovery from a December surgery for a torn scapholunate ligament in his right wrist, this news is not entirely unexpected. McConnell has appeared in just 24 contests this year. McConnell, 29, has averaged 8.7 PPG, 5.0 APG and 1.1 SPG while shooting 50.3% from the field and 80% from the free throw line.
- Provided that the Cavaliers are able to retain their core of power forward Evan Mobley and All-Stars Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen, Jason Lloyd of The Athletic suggests that Cleveland should do its darnedest to add 11-year Cavaliers veteran LeBron James, who would reach free agency in 2023, at age 38, if he doesn’t sign an extension before then. During an active 2022 All-Star weekend in Cleveland, James went out of his way to praise the team-building work of team president Koby Altman. “I think Koby and those guys have done an unbelievable job drafting and making trades,” James told Lloyd. “The door’s not closed on [the prospect of James making yet another Cleveland return].” The Cavaliers could conceivably carve out cap space during the 2023 offseason in part by moving off the $17.3MM salary owed forward Lauri Markkanen and perhaps by picking up and then offloading the $8.9MM team option of wing Isaac Okoro.