‘You always want to be wanted’

Two seasons have come and gone since the blockbuster trade that saw DeMar DeRozan and Kawhi Leonard change franchises. The championship banner hanging in the rafters of Scotiabank Arena is a testament to how well acquiring Leonard went for the Toronto Raptors. The same can’t be said for the San Antonio Spurs and their partnership with DeRozan.

Despite putting up respectable counting stats to the tune of 21.6 points, 5.8 assists and 5.9 rebounds per game to this point in his tenure, the duo of DeRozan and co-star LaMarcus Aldridge has not been enough to prolong the Spurs’ multi-decade run of consistent greatness. This year, for the first time in 23 seasons, San Antonio didn’t make the playoffs.

Even before that shortcoming, rumblings had existed that the Spurs-DeRozan partnership may not endure. Those rumours have been amplified this off-season. The Los Angeles Lakers are reportedly interested in trading for DeRozan in a deal that would see Danny Green and Kyle Kuzma wear silver and black, according to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer.

“I’ve learned, being in the league so long, you always want to be wanted,” DeRozan said during an appearance on All The Smoke, a podcast hosted by former NBAers Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson. “To be wanted by a championship team, to see that, how could you not feel some type of way? Especially me being from L.A., it’s like, damn. My hometown team wants me? They just came off a championship, and they want me? It’s crazy to be able to see that.”

DeRozan’s basketball connection to Los Angeles is more than it being home.

Growing up, he idolized Kobe Bryant, a man whose legacy is so firmly cemented in Lakers lore that the thought of one invariably conjures the thought of the other. DeRozan and Bryant’s relationship didn’t end with No. 24 being a motivating ideal, either. They played against one another when DeRozan was in high school and during the summer. Later, when they both shared NBA courts, and Bryant was always quick to offer advice.

“Everything I learned came from Kobe, everything,” DeRozan said back in January, after playing the same day of Bryant’s tragic death in a helicopter accident. “Take Kobe away, I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t have the love, the profession, the drive. Everything came from Kobe.”

The emotional temptation of wearing purple and gold alongside LeBron James in the Lakers’ quest to win back-to-back titles for the first time since the Bryant-led teams of the 2009 and 2010 is plain to see.

“No question,” DeRozan said, when Barnes asked him if he’d ever thought about playing for the Lakers. “You always had dreams of doing it, you know what I mean?”

But it remains to be seen if the Spurs will make a move. According to O’Connor’s reporting, DeRozan’s name isn’t the only one in play. Patty Mills has drawn interest from the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers, while the Warriors may want Aldridge.

Amid the rumours, though, DeRozan stopped short of expressing any overt desire to be dealt from the Spurs.

“Whatever jersey I have on, I’m gonna lay it out there on the line and represent it the best way I can,” he said.

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