"There was just something about him from the way he ran his team, the way he coached, his credibility," he said. "Everything that stands out about Pop, you just have to love. So to have this opportunity to play with a legendary coach at this point in my career, I think it's one of those blessings that's in disguise because this is a cool moment to be with a guy like that."
DeRozan is one of the most offensively gifted guards in the NBA. He ranked fifth in scoring during the 2016-17 campaign at 27.3 points per game and averaged 23 points last season.
The 28-year-old California native said the trade from Toronto has created a chip on his shoulder and will lead to "hell for a lot of people."
"Just this whole transition of making this move, it kind of makes you look back at your career in the sense of what points you could've been better at, how you could have been better at it, the success that you had, the failures that you had," he told Haynes. "And you kind of accumulate all that into a ball of motivation and hunger and kind of frustration, on top of this situation happening."
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For DeRozan, that area in need of improvement comes on defense. He ranked 84th among 107 qualified shooting guards last season in ESPN.com's Defensive Real Plus-Minus.
Popovich has always been known for his defensively strong system. The Spurs have ranked better than the league average in Relative Defensive Rating in every season since 1997-98, his first full year leading the staff, per Basketball Reference.
DeRozan will likely never become an elite defender. The Spurs certainly can't expect him to replace Leonard as the player who always challenges the opponent's top wing scorer. That burden is probably going to land on the shoulders of Dejounte Murray.
But if their All-Star guard can become even average on the defensive end, his overall value will increase significantly as San Antonio looks to contend in the loaded Western Conference.