Almost all professional athletes envision playing for their hometown team at some point during their careers. And when that hometown is Los Angeles and the team is the Lakers, those feelings are often amplified. Or at least, that certainly seems to be the case for veteran San Antonio Spurs guard and 2021 unrestricted free agent DeMar DeRozan.
Born and raised in Southern California, DeRozan attended Compton High School before playing one season at USC in 2008-09. The stars have never aligned for DeRozan to return to Los Angeles throughout his career, with his best years in Toronto coinciding with the Lakers' rebuilding years.
However, the veteran guard is a free agent this offseason and, with the Lakers having a possible opening for him, DeRozan sounds eager to come back home. Appearing on the “Club Shay Shay” podcast with Shannon Sharpe, DeRozan spoke about the possibility of playing for the Lakers next season:
“You can’t ask a kid if they want to play at home (and think) they’ll say no. At some point, you will definitely want to have that opportunity, and especially if they want you. Why not? It’s a great opportunity.”
DeRozan is coming off a productive season in San Antonio where he averaged 21.6 points, 6.9 assists and shot 49.5% from the field. He was the main offensive weapon for a Spurs side that made the play-in game, averaging the most shots per game and leading the team in usage rate at 26.1%.
Sharpe mentioned the need to share the ball and sacrifice shots if DeRozan were to return to Los Angeles and play with LeBron James and Anthony Davis. In response, DeRozan brought up one of the league’s super teams in the Nets as an example of how things could work:
“You take Brooklyn as an example. Three of the greatest scorers this league has ever seen, and they balanced it out well. It sucks that they couldn’t be healthy through the whole (playoffs), because I think they would have been in the Finals. Those three guys, come on. And they figured it out, they worked it out and they had a great rhythm when they played together. It’s definitely possible to work and it’s all about just coming together. We’re all great basketball players.”
DeMar DeRozan on his free agency plans: pic.twitter.com/tfjs1ntNvw— Noah Magaro-George (@N_Magaro) July 26, 2021
DeRozan altered his playing style in a way in San Antonio that may benefit his chances of playing with the Lakers next season. After years of playing as a shooting guard disinterested in shooting 3-pointers, DeRozan moved his game into the post more this year. Per Cleaning the Glass, 69% of DeRozan’s minutes came at the power forward position last season, with the remaining minutes being at the small forward.
While his shot profile did not change, surrounding DeRozan with shooters negated his inability to shoot 3-pointers. It also led to a career-high in assists this season, and he ranked in the 96th percentile in assist rate relative to usage rate, which is a measure of how often a player earned an assist given how much they had the ball.
But perhaps most intriguing to the Lakers would be DeRozan’s ability to create his own shot, an area he’s excelled at his whole career. While he isn’t a traditional playmaking guard that the Lakers appear to have their eye on this offseason, he would alleviate some of the offensive creation burden from Davis and James. And given that he also reportedly has a willingness to take a pay cut to play for the Lakers, there’s a lot of reasons why it seems the stars may be aligning for DeRozan to return home this offseason. And it sounds like all things being equal, he’d like to make it happen.