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Sport Is this DeMar DeRozan’s final act with the Spurs?

05:55  16 march  2020
05:55  16 march  2020 Source:   expressnews.com

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The news came as news to DeMar DeRozan.

Spurs' DeMar DeRozan (left) goes toward the basket against Dallas Mavericks' Kristaps Porzingis (06) in the first half at the AT&T Center on Tuesday, Mar. 10, 2020. © Kin Man Hui / Staff Photographer

Spurs' DeMar DeRozan (left) goes toward the basket against Dallas Mavericks' Kristaps Porzingis (06) in the first half at the AT&T Center on Tuesday, Mar. 10, 2020.

In the middle of the Spurs’ 119-109 victory over Dallas on Tuesday, TNT sideline reporter Chris Haynes told a national television audience that — absent a contract extension with the Spurs this summer — DeRozan expects to opt out of the final year of his deal and pursue free agency.

On the interview podium after the Spurs’ final game before coronavirus concerns shut down the NBA season for the time being, DeRozan did his best to downplay that report.

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“Who reported it? Did my Mama say it?” DeRozan asked with a playful grin. “Don’t listen to it then.”

Diane DeRozan could not be reached for comment.

When the NBA re-opens for business — whether that is 30 days or even months from now — the star guard’s future with the Spurs will continue to be an object of speculation.

DeRozan, 30, has one year remaining on his contract, a player option worth more than $27.7 million for next season.

Should DeRozan choose to decline that option and enter free agency, the four-time All-Star would instantly become one of the biggest names in what is expected to be a watered-down 2020 class.

It is unclear how DeRozan might fit into the Spurs’ long-term plans, especially if the team aims to rebuild around youth after what could be its first playoffs-less season since 1996-97.

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DeRozan is the Spurs’ scoring leader at 22.2 points per game. He also tops the team at 5.6 assists per game, boosted by a season-best 12 against the Mavericks.

However, DeRozan’s reputation as a lax defender is well-earned, and his inability to shoot 3-pointers does not jibe with the growing trend among NBA wing players.

With seven teams expected to have cap space this summer to chase a thin free-agent pool, it might be in DeRozan’s best interest to test the waters.

Interest from any one of those clubs — Atlanta, Memphis, New York, Detroit, Charlotte, Cleveland and Phoenix — could put DeRozan and his agent, Aaron Goodwin, in a position to recoup the eight figures he would give back in order to leave the Spurs.

At the crux of DeRozan’s decision is the question of what kind of value he might be able to draw as an unrestricted free agent. On that front, projections across the league vary.

Many NBA observers believe DeRozan — still in his prime as one of the league’s top scorers — would still be able to garner a multi-year deal starting between $20- and $25-million next season.

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Others see DeRozan’s next salary — should he choose the free agency route — starting at something closer to the mid-level exception of approximately $9.76 million.

For DeRozan and Goodwin, properly assessing the market this summer will be vital to his opt in or opt out decision.

DeRozan has said multiple times he does not plan to address his future until the season is over. Under the league calendar as it stands, DeRozan has until June 29 to decide on his option. Like everything else in the age of the coronavirus, that date could change once the NBA decides how to reboot its season.

Until then, there will be much for DeRozan to ponder.

Give DeRozan praise for this much. He has been nothing but a good soldier in San Antonio since being transported here against his will in the summer of 2018.

In a perfect world, he and the Spurs would have never joined forces in the first place.

Given their druthers, the Spurs would have found a way to pacify disgruntled All-Star Kawhi Leonard and ridden him to more championships instead of trading him for the best deal they could find. Had he had his way, DeRozan would have remained in Toronto, which had become home to him after nine NBA seasons.

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Both sides have done their best to make an imperfect marriage work, even as DeRozan is poised to become the leading scorer on perhaps the first Spurs team to miss the playoffs in 23 seasons.

The losing, DeRozan admits, is wearying — especially for a player who has been to seven consecutive postseasons and while in Toronto was the centerpiece of four 50-win squads.

“Just losing, period, is frustrating,” DeRozan said. “Extremely frustrating. That’s all I can say about it.”

Still, DeRozan has done his best to lead the charge even as the Spurs’ postseason prospects have begun to wane.

From Dec. 21 through Jan. 17, DeRozan put together 13 consecutive games of at least 20 points while shooting 50 percent.

That is the longest such streak in Spurs history, and the longest ever by an NBA guard.

The Spurs, however, couldn’t crack .500 during those games, going 6-7. Likewise, the Spurs are 2-7 this season when DeRozan scores at least 30 points.

“He always plays like he’s got a chip on his shoulder,” Spurs forward Rudy Gay said. “He should have a chip on his shoulder, because if not we are not in playoff contention right now.”

Those know DeRozan from before his San Antonio experience expect him to keep fighting, even as the playoffs slip further out of reach.

“He’s a really good leader,” said Orlando forward Terrence Ross, DeRozan’s teammate from 2012 to 2017 in Toronto. “He’s going to ride the guys he’s with. It’s all about winning for him. If he’s not winning, he’s going to try to get the team going in the right direction. It gets hard for him sometimes, but he plays through that and he’ll do whatever he can to win a game.”

Shooting guard Bryn Forbes summarizes DeRozan’s meaning to the Spurs this way: “He’s the heart of what we do.”

The questions for the Spurs, as the offseason approaches: Are they willing to let their heart walk away? And at what price point does a heart transplant make the most sense?

For now, DeRozan — ever the professional — plans to keep plugging along as soon as the NBA resumes its season.

“I’ve been in this league a long time,” DeRozan said. “I come out and do my job.”

There will be time for DeRozan to address his future, but that time is coming fast.

Soon, everyone — from DeRozan’s mama on down — will have the answers.

jmcdonald@express-news.net

Twitter:@JMcDonald_SAEN

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usr: 1
This is interesting!