Bulls Review: Luol Deng
Season recap: Deng had a great year. Before the season, his goal was to play in all 82 games, and he did just that. He was sick of people saying he was soft and wanted to prove to his critics that he could contribute in every game without being forced out because of an injury. Mission accomplished. Deng was solid on both ends of the floor, averaging 17 points, six rebounds and three assists a game, while becoming one of the team's best perimeter defenders. He also became one of Thibodeau's favorites because of his ability to help out in so many areas.
Season highlight: In a Nov. 1 game against the Portland Trail Blazers, Deng dropped 40 points and had one of his most dominant offensive nights in years. The key for Deng was that almost all of his points came in the rhythm of the offense. With Carlos Boozer out of the lineup for the first month of the season, Deng stepped up offensively, averaging almost 21 points during the first month.
Season lowlight: Deng was so consistent throughout the year that it's hard to find a certain part of the season where he really struggled. If I had to pick one stretch though, I'd probably go with Games 3 and 4 of the Eastern Conference finals. Deng was just 11-for-28 from the field combined and understandably looked a little worn out after chasing LeBron James around for the past two nights. He didn't play terribly, he just didn't play at the level, especially offensively, that he had set for himself earlier in the season.
Final grades: Regular season -- A | Postseason -- B
“Notes: Deng took a beating this season. He was almost always wrapped in ice after games. He was a league leader in minutes, averaging about 39 a game. It was pretty clear at times during the end of the season that those minutes caught up with Deng at times, especially given that he had to expend so much energy on the defensive end. Still, Deng endeared himself to a portion of the fan base that wasn't sure he could still play at a near All-Star level. If he plays the same way next season, the Bulls, and their fans, will be ecstatic.
I never played for the doubters. Or the people that don't believe or anything. I never do. I always say that once you do that it's a battle, it's somewhere you don't want to go. Once your doubters, and all the media and everything controls who you are and what you do, that's already a sign of failure.” -- Luol Deng
What's next?: Deng is scheduled to play for Team Great Britain this summer in preparation for next year's Olympics in London. He's been looking forward to the Olympics for a while now. The biggest key for him is to rest and get his body back in order when he gets the chance. Last year around this time, Bulls fans wanted to deal him for whatever they could ... now they'll be happy if he comes back and contributes like he did this past season.