Really, truly, DeMar DeRozan loves talking about the Lakers.
For a player that has never played for the franchise, DeRozan has spoken more about the Lakers than just about anyone else in the NBA not already donning the purple and gold. Most of those discussions center on just how badly he wants to play for the franchise, but, obviously, that has never amounted to anything.
The latest chapter of him discussing what could was an interview with Taylor Rooks of Bleacher Report, in which DeRozan responded to reports that he was willing to take a pay cut to join the Lakers:
Rooks: For the sake of the report, were you going to take a substantial pay cut to be able to play for the Lakers?
DeRozan: Substantial? I wouldn’t say substantial.
Rooks: But I cut.
DeRozan: Yeah. It was an option. It was a real realistic options.
DeRozan refuting that he was willing to take a substantial pay cut is notable as many viewed that as the most likely way he would realistically join the Lakers. While he was open to some downgrade in salary, this would seem to indicate it wasn’t enough that it was ever going to be possible for the Lakers to sign him as a free agent.
The only way the Lakers could have signed him outright — i.e. without a sign-and-trade — given they were over the salary cap, was by using the same taxpayer mid-level exception that the team partially used to sign Kendrick Nunn to his two-year, $10.5 million deal in the wake of the Westbrook trade. But even without Westbrook, that’s all they could have offered DeRozan, as they didn’t have cap space.
Which means the only real way the Lakers could conceivably have acquired DeRozan during the summer was via sign-and-trade, which was reported as a possibility. That deal would have centered around Kyle Kuzma and DeRozan, but the team opted to deal Kuzma to the Wizards as part of the package that brought back Russell Westbrook. Whether they chose wisely in picking Westbrook over DeRozan is an argument for another time.
But, most importantly, the Lakers interest in DeRozan likely waned because having to acquire him via sign-and-trade means the team would have hard-capped itself as well, severely limiting its flexibility both during free agency and throughout the season. For that reason, it was a virtual non-starter for the Lakers.
And because of that, it really didn’t matter how much of a pay cut DeRozan was willing to take. Certainly, it could have helped the Lakers stay under the hard cap if they did make a move for him, and his contract would have had to be in the ballpark of the aggregate of salaries the Lakers would have traded for him, but aside from that, it didn’t matter he was willing to take a pay cut. Unless he was willing to take the mid-level exception, which given what he ultimately signed for and these comments, he clearly wasn’t.
Ultimately, it’s highly unlikely to imagine the Lakers — or any other teams in the NBA — would have matched the Bulls offer of three years, $81.9 million that DeRozan signed at the time. And if that was the figure he was willing to take a pay cut down from, it would have hardly made sense either.
Fortunately, given his track record of constantly talking about the Lakers, DeRozan will likely revisit this topic soon enough, to potentially add some more clarity before discussing his desire to play for the franchise again in the future. At this point, he’s probably just gonna keep talking about it until it either happens, or he retires.