- Nick Friedell, ESPN Staff Writer
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While most of his Chicago Bulls teammates often jump and scream after a big play, Deng typically stands off to the side and tries not to be noticed. He doesn't seem to attract the attention of some of his teammates and he doesn't care. He just wants to go out and continue to do his job each and every night.
That was the case again Tuesday night, as the veteran forward played his slow and steady best throughout the Bulls’ 99-93 win over a gritty Orlando Magic team. Deng scored 23 points, including several big shots down the stretch, while grabbing eight rebounds and dishing out four assists.
With or without Derrick Rose on the floor, Deng has proven over and over he will give the same solid effort each night -- a trait his hard-charging coach admires.
"Luol provides whatever you need," Thibodeau said. "The guy is a winner. He is a complete player. We can count on him. Also, with Luol, you can use him in a lot of different ways."
For Deng, it's a role he has grown more comfortable with time. He knows he is viewed as a leader in the locker room, and he understands that without Rose on the floor his role is more important than ever.
"I just got to play my role," he said. "I'm trying to be out there and keep the guys grounded.
“For me I love having those guys out there doing what they do. I'm celebrating out there with them at the same time. I might not show it, but I am."
The beauty of Deng's game is that he can do all the things he does in the rhythm of the offense and defense. He can play solid defense on one end and come down and hit big shots on the other. It's a balancing act that continually impresses his teammates.
"He's huge for us every night," Noah said. "He's just so versatile and his rebounding, the way he affects the game in so many different ways ... Lu is really huge for us."
Deng and Noah's play were the biggest determining factors on a night when the Bulls needed everything they had. Each time the Magic pushed back, it was usually Deng and Noah who made a key play.
"I think we wanted it more," Bulls guard Nate Robinson said. "I think at the end we were a little bit more gritty. Coach said do whatever it takes to get the win, so tonight we had to gut it out."
That's what Deng, who is always among the league leaders in minutes, usually does.
"It's a role I'm comfortable with," he said. "I think every night I'm going to be out there trying to lead, trying to talk to guys. I'm not a loud guy or screaming at guys and just going to grab guys to the side, and I'm OK with that.”