(670 The Score) What has turned out to be a beautiful match between player and team has resulted in Bulls star DeMar DeRozan earning a lofty honor.
DeRozan has been named a starter for the All-Star Game, TNT announced Thursday evening. DeRozan – who almost exclusively plays forward for the Bulls – earned one of the two backcourt spots in the Eastern Conference.
This marks DeRozan’s fifth All-Star honor and will be the third time he starts the game, as he also did so in 2017 and 2018 while with the Raptors.
“It’s always an honor, especially when you get voted in by the fans, just being a player that the fans want to see," DeRozan said. "It’s definitely an honor. I would never, ever take that for granted. Just being back in it, it’s an honor in itself. I’m happy. I’m happy my teammates helped me get here. I got to give so much credit to them. Without them, I wouldn’t even have this chance to even be named a starter. So I’ve got to give so much credit teammates and the coaching staff.”
DeRozan, 32, is averaging 26.4 points (sixth in the NBA), 5.0 rebounds and 4.8 assists while shooting 49.7% in 34.9 minutes across 43 games in his first season in Chicago after joining the Bulls on a three-year, $85-million deal in a sign-and-trade from the Spurs in the offseason. DeRozan has been a driving force in the Bulls’ ascension to second place in the East, as they sat at 30-17 entering Thursday.
The Bulls' acquisition of DeRozan was met by widespread skepticism across the NBA, with many believing he wouldn't be a quality fit in Chicago given that he rarely shoots 3-pointers and he was an inconsistent defender in San Antonio. Those concerns have largely been extinguished, as his scoring efficiency, clam demeanor and steady leadership have been just what the Bulls needed.
"It's always motivation," DeRozan said of the critics and doubters. "We always strive off some type of motivation from the naysayers to the doubters. I let what I do on the court speak for itself when it comes to that. But in the same token, I use hate -- whatever you want to call it -- it's free energy. And I kind of strive on it, whatever mental edge I can gain, of people saying what can't happen or I'm not this or that. You always use that as some type of motivation."
DeRozan learned of his All-Star starter honor Thursday when teammate Zach LaVine announced it on the team flight to San Antonio, where the Bulls will face the Spurs on Friday.
"His announcement was definitely funny -- Flight 8 (LaVine's number)," DeRozan said. "It was cool. He woke up a lot of people on the plane, made them turn on the light and everything. That was the funny part about it."
The All-Star Game will be held Feb. 20 in Cleveland. The format of the game is no longer conference-affiliated, as two player captains – Nets star Kevin Durant and Lakers star LeBron James – will draft the two teams, so DeRozan will have to wait to see whom he’ll play with and against.
Durant, the Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo, the 76ers’ Joel Embiid and the Hawks’ Trae Young also earned starting honors in the East. James, the Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic, the Warriors’ Andrew Wiggins, the Warriors’ Steph Curry and the Grizzlies’ Ja Morant were the starters out of the West.
DeRozan led East guards in voting among fans (who account for 50%), players (25%) and media (25%).
All-Star reserves are chosen by coaches and will be revealed Feb. 3. Bulls guard Zach LaVine is expected to be one of the All-Star reserves chosen, as TNT analyst Charles Barkley had already been calling for him to be a starter. LaVine was second among East guards in player voting but third among the fans and media, so Young edged him out.
"I like Trae a lot, but I thought it should've been Zach LaVine," Barkley said on the TNT broadcast while citing the Bulls' superior team success.
Cody Westerlund is a sports editor for 670TheScore.com and covers the Bulls. Follow him on Twitter @CodyWesterlund.