The Los Angeles Lakers went into the 2021 NBA offseason wanting to make a splash and star DeMar DeRozan wanted to come home. Instead, DeRozan wound up in Chicago with the Lakers landing Russell Westbrook in a decision that dramatically altered the 2021-’22 NBA season.
As the Lakers’ disappointing season draws to a close and DeRozan’s Bulls prepare for the NBA Playoffs, more light is being shed on exactly what happened this summer.
The 32-year-old met with Los Angeles in free agency, planning out a return to Los Angeles with the team. As Yahoo Sports’ NBA insider Chris Haynes detailed, DeRozan thought the wheels were in motion for a sign-and-trade that would send him to his hometown team.
Instead, LeBron James and Anthony Davis started turning their sights to a Russell Westbrook trade. As a return home started falling apart, DeRozan came away from his final talks with the Lakers with an unfavorable impression.
Appearing on The Hoop Collective podcast, ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk shared insight from DeRozan’s camp on how the All-Star forward felt about the Lakers’ organization towards the end before heading to Chicago.
“I talked to someone from DeRozan’s camp. When DeRozan was in town in L.A., and he basically stuck it to the Lakers. The impression that I got from his camp was that DeRozan felt that the Lakers were in sort of disarray. They didn’t really have a vision. They didn’t know what they were doing.”ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk on The Hoop Collective, (H/T Lakers Daily)
On July 29, 2021, the Lakers traded Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and the 22nd pick to the Washington Wizards for Westbrook. While the team viewed it as a championship-caliber move, everything backfired and they will end the season missing the playoffs.
Why DeMar DeRozan was right about the Los Angeles Lakers
Getting an inside look at the Lakers’ process showed DeRozan a sign of what was looming. An organization, led by James and executive Rob Pelinka, that sold itself on a vision most around the NBA knew would fail.
The writing was on the wall from the start. Los Angeles overpaid for Westbrook, trading its few remaining assets and key rotational pieces that helped build the best defense in the NBA. In return, the Lakers received a ball-dominant guard who couldn’t shoot and paired horribly with James and Davis.
Yet, despite all the analysis highlighting the team’s flawed roster construction, injury risks and old age, hubris existed within the Lakers’ organization.
Ultimately, the Lakers’ decisions provided a spark for DeRozan’s career and it changed the Chicago Bulls for the better. Meanwhile, the Lakers are without first-round picks, stuck with Westbrook’s contract and are further behind in the Western Conference than ever before heading into the NBA offseason.