According to Haynes, DeRozan’s agent Aaron Goodwin was working “feverishly” behind the scenes with the Spurs in the days leading up to free agency to orchestrate a sign-and-trade deal that would send his client to Los Angeles. However, the Lakers’ talks with San Antonio tapered off as they pivoted to a trade for Russell Westbrook, forcing DeRozan to go in another direction as well.
“I felt like going to the Lakers was a done deal and that we were going to figure it out. I was going to come home,” DeRozan told Haynes after the Bulls’ victory over the Lakers on Monday. “The business side of things just didn’t work out. A couple of things didn’t align. It didn’t work out. It’s just part of the business, part of the game. My next option was definitely Chicago. So, looking back at it, it worked out well.”
Although there were multiple offseason reports linking DeRozan to his hometown Lakers, this is the first indication we’ve gotten that a potential deal gained real traction. The Lakers also reportedly seriously considered the possibility of trading for Buddy Hield before instead opting for Westbrook.
Acquiring a player via sign-and-trade would’ve hard-capped the Lakers’ team salary at $143MM in 2021/22, so it makes sense that the club preferred to trade for a player on an existing contract, avoiding that hard cap. Given how DeRozan and Westbrook have played so far this season, Los Angeles may be regretting its decision, but DeRozan told Haynes he doesn’t look at it that way.
“Nah, Russ is a Hall-of-Fame player,” DeRozan said. “It’s hard to turn down that caliber of player. I can’t speak for the Lakers, but they went with what they felt was best for them. And all due respect to them. No hard feelings. No animosity, but I just look at it as part of the game. A deal is never done until it’s done. I learned that. It just didn’t work out. I’m just happy I’m in Chicago.”
The Clippers were also considered a viable suitor for DeRozan during free agency, and the 32-year-old acknowledges L.A.’s other team was in the mix. However, he told Haynes it “didn’t get as far as the Lakers situation.”
Since the Lakers agreed to trade for Westbrook on draft day (July 29), four days before free agency opened, DeRozan’s comments and Haynes’ report suggest the Spurs and Lakers may have violated the NBA’s gun-jumping rules if they were exploring a sign-and-trade that early in the offseason. Given that the Bulls are currently being investigated for possible gun-jumping in their Lonzo Ball sign-and-trade, perhaps DeRozan’s insinuation that other teams were engaging in similar conversations wasn’t an accident.