DeMar DeRozan

DeRozan enticed by challenge of joining, helping ‘uprising' Kings

NBC Universal, Inc.

SACRAMENTO – Over the past two seasons, DeMar DeRozan would sit inside his Chicago home and turn the TV on to catch up on the latest NBA action.

A true fan of the game, DeRozan tries to keep up with the rest of the league and watch as many games as possible during his free time.

So when he flipped through the channels and the Kings were playing, he was intrigued by how loud and clear he could hear the Golden 1 Center crowd through the television, cheering and on their feet during a regular-season weekday game.

Then he heard chants. The chants.

“Light the beam! Light the beam!” hollers could be heard from eager Kings fans patiently waiting for the clock to hit zero. When it finally did and Sacramento was victorious, DeRozan noticed some postgame extracurriculars that kept him from changing the channel.

It was time to light the beam in Sacramento, symbolized by a player walking over to the scorer’s table and slamming their hand on a button that ignited purple lasers shooting out of G1C after every Kings win.

Fast forward to Tuesday, where DeRozan sat inside that same exact building after joining the team he always watched from afar, increasingly fascinated by the sensation that is the beam. But what drew the highly sought-after star free agent to Sacramento?

“How many times I've seen that beam lit up when I was chilling at home,” DeRozan said Tuesday during his introductory press conference in Sacramento. “Especially being on Central Time. I watch every NBA game. So you would just always see something lit up. It's like, ‘What's the significance of pushing this button?’ But like I said, winning solves all. 

“And that's one thing I always express to guys that I play with who want to be All-Stars, wanting to get paid – winning solves everything. You want to be a part of winning. You want to be a winner. You want to be known as a winner. So that's the most compelling thing for me, and you see it every single night when his team plays. It’s all about winning.”

DeRozan spent the past three seasons with the Chicago Bulls. Over the last two campaigns, they were an under-.500 team. Meanwhile, 2,000 miles west, something special was brewing in Sacramento.

The Kings introduced their new victory beam during the 2022-23 season, the same year they snapped their pesky 17-year playoff drought. Despite winning just two fewer games the following year, Sacramento went from the No. 3 seed in the West to the No. 9 seed, respectively, and failed to make the playoffs last season.

While it’s safe to say things are trending in the right direction for the Kings after nearly two decades of playoff-less basketball, business hasn’t always been booming for Sacramento basketball.

But that’s what enticed DeRozan to sign with the Kings in free agency this offseason. He took note of their storybook 2022-23 season, their reality-check 2023-24 season, and then essentially said: “I want in.”

And he not only believes he has what it takes to help get this team over the hump – but he genuinely is excited for the challenge of making it happen.

“I love it,” DeRozan said. “I love the challenge. I love the excitement that comes with it. When you’re a competitor, you want to be the best with where the best is at. The Western Conference is stacked. You get tested every single night. You work for those moments so it can bring the best out of you. 

“So I'm overly looking forward to it. I can't wait. I'm excited. It’s going to be fun.”

On top of the itch to turn something good into something great, DeRozan said the feeling of being wanted helped sway his decision this summer.

Being a six-time NBA All-Star should make that a little easier, right?

Perhaps, but of the reported teams tied to DeRozan in free agency, such as the Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, Los Angeles Clippers and others, it was the Kings whose interest felt genuine, true, and ultimately – mutual.

“Just the expression of being wanted. Needed. To do something bigger than just me,” DeRozan said. “At the end of the day, I'm all for winning. I just want to win at the highest of levels, and me being able to be a part of something a team may be missing to help them take them over that hump, that's all I needed to see. And that’s what was expressed to me from day one. As a competitor, that’s all you need.

“It’s beyond an honor to be able to be a part of such an uprising franchise. The want that they showed going in free agency was amazing. I ain't going to lie, it always feels good to be wanted somewhere. And from Day 1, they showed that. So it's an honor to be able to represent this organization and build on what this organization has been doing for the last couple of years. It’s something special. I definitely want to be a part of it. And I want to be one of those guys that hit the beam and it lights up. I'm definitely looking forward to that. And looking forward to playing with this young, exciting, talented team. Great coaching staff. 

“The last couple days, it's all I kind of have been thinking about, putting on this jersey, representing the city, hearing the fans scream as loud as y'all can. So I'm definitely looking forward to it, man. It's going to be an exciting year. I'm definitely going to work my butt off more than ever to make sure the city gets what it deserves.”

When asked if he would believe it if someone told him one month ago he’d be a Sacramento King, DeRozan didn’t hesitate with his response: “No, I would not.”

But that, to DeRozan, is the beauty of basketball and life. Sometimes, he said, the greatest things happen unexpectedly.

It might be unexpected, but Kings fans have been waiting. Patiently. For years.

So when DeRozan first walked into Golden 1 Center alongside Kings owner Vivek Ranadivé last Saturday before the Kings’ California Classic game, he was greeted with a standing ovation and unquestionably the loudest cheers from any crowd during a July summer league game.

That reception only intensified what DeRozan already had been feeling. He’s ready to get to work. 

“To get the reception I got the other night was amazing,” DeRozan said. “The last couple of years playing against the Kings, it’s been tough coming in this building. You feel it. It's not many arenas in this league where when you walk in, you feel the atmosphere. You feel the tension in the air. So to be able to get that reception the other night was amazing. 

“The respect, the love that's already shown had me hungry. I left there that night and went straight to the gym when I got back home. The drive, the hunger, the passion the fans show, you definitely just want to give it back.”

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