DeMar DeRozan was going to be one of the Lakers’ free agent targets last summer — an All-Star wing who could come home to Los Angeles and slide right into Kobe Bryant‘s now vacant spot in the rotation. But like the Lakers’ other top targets — Kevin Durant, Hassam Whiteside, etc. — the Lakers didn’t even get a meeting.
Durant’s reasoning was expected: “I really respect their team. I just thought they were a couple years away from where I wanted to be.”
DeRozan went another path — he loves Toronto and wants to carve out a legacy there, as he told Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily recently:
“When you have an opportunity to go home, that’s something that certainly would cross your mind. But it wasn’t anything,” DeRozan told Southern California News Group. “After I finish playing, I’m pretty sure I’ll live in L.A. But I just wanted to do something special and leave a legacy of my own in Toronto.”
DeRozan is big on loyalty — he has the word tattooed on his hands. If he says he’s in for something, he’s all the way in. And he is in for Toronto — he and Kyle Lowry have built what that team has become. The Lowry/DeRozan backcourt fueled the Raptors to the best season in franchise history last campaign — 56 wins and reaching the Eastern Conference finals. Nobody who knew DeRozan thought he would walk away from that, not even for the chance to play for the team he grew up idolizing.
The Daily News story does a fantastic job of showing DeRozan is still loyal to Los Angeles, too — he is a regular at the Drew League to this day. He loves L.A.
But that’s different from leaving an impressive Raptors team for the Lakers.