- Nick Friedell, ESPN Staff Writer
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CHARLOTTE -- The low point for Luol Deng came three seasons ago as he sat on the bench, injured, watching one of the best NBA playoff series of all time as a spectator. A stress fracture in his right tibia suffered in February sidelined him for the rest of the 2008-09 season, opening him up to criticism from fans, media and the Bulls organization.
Deng had to sit and watch his young Bulls take the second-seeded Boston Celtics to seven games in a memorable first-round playoff series that featured four overtime games.
"To know that I'm on that team, but couldn't dress up and play and then sitting there and reading everything; the papers, the fans, and everyone saying that I wasn't really hurt," Deng said Friday. "To me, that was the lowest point and the craziest thing I ever had to go through. To get people saying things like that. I think that's the first time I really went through something like that. I think it helped me a lot. And just bouncing back, and knowing really how things work.
"Before I kind of felt like I was loved by everyone. That's really how I really felt ... Through my whole life I never experienced that kind of, if you want to call it hate, or whatever it was. Until that point, and sitting there for seven games [in that series], to me it's the toughest thing I've done in my whole career."
Perhaps that's what made Thursday's news that much more special, when Deng was named to his first NBA All-Star team.
"It's a great honor," Deng said Friday. "I'm really happy. It's good to see. I don't really have the words for it, except the fact that I'm really happy. I just want to go around and thank all my teammates because I believe by the way we're playing and the record we have, that's why I'm getting the opportunity."
Deng, who is averaging 16 points and 7.3 rebounds a game this season, will join teammate Derrick Rose on the East team for the Feb. 26 game in Orlando.
"Super happy [for him]," Rose said. "I told you I knew he was going to make it. I was telling him that and he didn't believe me, but with the way he's been playing this year, he's been consistent for us. And he's one of the leaders on the team. He's been doing a great job with that."
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau has been saying Deng deserved the honor for several weeks, even after Deng tore a ligament in his left wrist last month in a contest against the Charlotte Bobcats and ended up having to miss seven games.
"It's a great honor for him, and he's certainly earned it," Thibodeau said. "I thought it would happen. The one thing about Lu is, if you really look at his career, I think each year that he's been in the league, he's gotten better and better. I think that's a sign of how serious he is. How he approaches the game. And he's obviously a very well-rounded player. There's not anything that he doesn't do well. Obviously he's very significant to us in terms of us winning."
After missing out on the team several times in his career, Deng admitted he believed he would make the cut this time around.
"You get a certain feeling that you're going to make it. I had a feeling," he said. "I don't know why. But I was still surprised to see it. You're watching [the show] and you're relieved a little bit that you made it. This year kind of felt different going into it. I think there's a few years that I watched [the show] that I thought I might get in. But this year for some reason, I thought it was going to happen."