DeMar DeRozan is about to head to Salt Lake City this weekend for his second consecutive All-Star appearance.
And yet, the biggest impact he has made on the Chicago Bulls is off the court.
Veteran mentorship is a difficult thing to quantify. The Bulls have had their share of leaders over the last few years, from Thaddeus Young and Garrett Temple to Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday to Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade, that their young players have gravitated towards. But there’s a difference between once high-level players taking young guys under their wing in their twilight years, and a current All-Star making it a point to mentor young twenty-somethings.
DeRozan has done exactly that, specifically with Patrick Williams and Dalen Terry.
“It’s really hard to put it into words,” Williams told CHGO recently. “The knowledge that he has, what 25-plus years (he joked) in the league, the knowledge he’s got being able to break it down for us, and kind of tell us, my third year, [Dalen’s] first year. That’s priceless. We’re learning so much from him through his experience. That’s before we even talk about the player that he is.”
Despite the disappointment that has been the 2022-23 season, DeRozan has taken it upon himself to be the veteran mentor every young player needs, whether they know it or not. He has done everything from teaching Terry and WIlliams the amount of effort, intention and precision it takes to elevate their skill sets to bringing them into his family. Literally.
“They definitely have that son thing going on. Me and Pat are Deebo’s sons. Obviously I’m the youngest one, he calls me the little baby. I can’t believe he said that on camera,” Terry told CHGO with a laugh.
“He just tries to mess with me,” Terry continued. “He calls me his baby. He calls me his son. When I’m around him and his actual kids, he refers to me as, “go get your brother.””
Williams and Terry make sure to get him back though, constantly reminding him of his age and how many seasons he’s spent in the league. That comradery he has built goes beyond jokes and jabs.
“He takes me and Dalen to dinner with him in every city we go to at night,” Williams divulged. “We’ve been doing that since game 15 or something like that. You can imagine how many conversations we’ve had, how many talks we’ve had about literally everything at those dinners.”
“He pays sometimes, I pay sometimes,” Williams said. “We haven’t made Dalen pay yet, but he’s a rookie.”
From the late-night dinners to the early morning summertime workouts, the preparation never stops. DeRozan is in the gym after every practice, every shootaround, every game, perfecting his craft through his perfectly honed routine.
Impressionable, young players like Terry and Williams take notice to that sort of thing and want to incorporate it into their own workouts.
“For him, it’s just getting me to see the finer details of the game,” Williams said. “Angles, knowing what to do, when to do it. Just the experience part of it. And the little meticulous details that a lot of people don’t even pick up on, but he sees out there. And that’s what makes him, him.”
No one stumbles into perfect footwork, precision mid-range shooting, and six All-Star appearances. DeRozan is never satisfied. No matter how much he achieves, he seeks more success and doesn’t let his young padawans settle for anything less.
“He pushes me literally every single game, every single day,” Williams said of DeRozan. “If I’m playing well, it’s never ‘good job, good game’, it’s always like ‘you can do this next, this is something you can add to your game.'”
“I mean he’s helped me with every aspect,” Terry said. “You see what he do with Pat, obviously I’m next.”
Having spent 14 years in the association, DeRozan has seen everything. He wants to share that perspective and experience with Terry and Williams because it was what was shown to him during his early years in Toronto.
DeRozan was the only rookie on his team during the 2009-10 campaign. The stars in the league during that time were older than the young stars today and veteran mentorship was critical.
Through his own experience, DeRozan knows how much of an impact that veterans can have on young players, so now, according to Williams, he feels like it’s his job to pass that one.
“He knows firsthand how much that means, and how big of an impact that can have,” Williams said. “I think for him, somebody did it for him, a lot of people did. You can see how many Kobes he’s got in his locker over there. Kobe did it for him, so many players did it for him. I’ve been lucky to benefit off that.”
The vibes have been all off for the Bulls this season, but the bond between DeRozan, Terry and Williams is one of the few bright spots. Even more, it’s rare for young players to understand and appreciate what they have in the moment. Especially when that player is as humble and level-minded as it gets, despite being one of the best in the world.
“I know he doesn’t really care about [All-Star appearances],” Williams said of DeRozan’s motivation. “But it is a big deal. Even if he doesn’t care much about it. Six All-Stars, to have two in a row. That’s a big deal.
It means that much more to me and Dalen because we can see what goes into it. He’s pushing us to be on that level as well.”
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