A year ago, DeMar DeRozan was an obvious All-Star Game selection as the catalyst of one of the NBA’s most surprising teams. This year, it’s going to be a closer call.
DeRozan is the Bulls’ best chance for an All-Star. But after he did not make the initial roster off fan and media voting, it will take an All-Star head coach’s selection to get there.
DeRozan was averaging 26.4 points, 5.0 assists and 4.9 rebounds per game and shooting 51.3% from the field heading into Tuesday night’s game against the Clippers. His scoring average is the same as it was last year when he was selected — but it was sixth in the league last year. This year it’s 15th. And perhaps an even bigger difference — the Bulls were 23-26 heading into Tuesday night’s game. Last year they were 30-17 and second in the Eastern Conference at the time of DeRozan’s selection.
Bulls coach Billy Donovan emphasized the 33-year-old DeRozan’s availability in making a case for his veteran star. DeRozan played in his 47th game Tuesday night. Among the top 15 scorers in the NBA, only the Celtics’ 24-year-old Jayson Tatum had played more (48).
“He’s had a great year. He’s been really, really consistent,” Bulls coach Billy Donovan said. “The year’s been unique for a lot of players in terms of injuries — his availability has been pretty impressive for as many years as he’s been in the league. He’s just been incredibly efficient and has played really well. I think he’s played at the same level as he did last year in a lot of ways.
Nikola Vucevic remains unfazed by the approaching NBA trade deadline Feb. 9, even though he could be dealt.
“I don’t pay attention to that,” Vucevic said. “I’ve been in the league for a long time now [13 seasons]. I’ve been involved in two trades. It’s part of it, obviously. It’s not easy when you get the call and are told you’re traded — everything changes for you. But there’s nothing you can do about it. If you think about it, you’re just going to make it harder on yourself.”
The 32-year-old Vucevic, coming off a 26-point, 13-rebound game in a victory over the Magic, is averaging 17.5 points, 11.1 rebounds and 3.3 assists this season. He came into Tuesday night’s game averaging 4.8 assists in his previous 11 games after averaging 2.9 assists in his first 38.
“The way we’ve been trying to play lately puts me in position to involve my passing game a lot more,” Vucevic said, “especially when DeMar and Zach [LaVine] are getting doubled in the pick-and-rolls, I’m able to get in the pocket and make plays out of it, or even just regular pick-and-rolls.
“It’s something I really enjoy doing when I get the ball in the pocket, whether it’s making a play for myself or for somebody else. I think it helps our offense a lot.”
No Rising Stars
The Bulls were shut out of the Rising Stars game for rookies, second-year players and G-league players that will be played during All-Star weekend.
Bulls guard Ayo Dosunmu who played in the game as a rookie last season, was not among the 10 second-year players named to the roster this season. Dosunmu came into Tuesday night’s game averaging 9.3 points and 2.6 assists per game.
The Bulls’ only rookie, guard Dalen Terry, has played in only 18 games the season, mostly in bit roles, averaging 0.9 points per game.