- Nick Friedell, ESPN Staff Writer
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"I’m looking forward to playing in the Olympics," Deng said. "I’m excited about it. It's something i’ve wanted to do since i was a kid. and i’ll prepare myself for it."
Deng, who tore a ligament in his left wrist on Jan. 21 put off surgery during the season so that he could help the Bulls compete for a championship. He also repeatedly stated his desire to represent his adopted home country of Great Britain this summer in London. Some wondered if Deng may change his mind about the surgery after watching his teammate Derrick Rose go down with a torn ACL in his left knee during Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Philadelphia 76ers, but Deng remained steady with his choice. If Deng does have to have surgery, it will likely take three or four months for him to return to the floor, but that will not stop him from playing in the Games.
"I’ve got to see how my wrist feels, right now, going into the Olympics, and then right after the Olympics," he said. "I’ll make the decision, whether if my wrist is good enough i don’t need the surgery, or if I’ll need it. I haven’t really ruled out not getting the surgery or getting it. I just haven’t made that decision. I just know I’ve got the Olympics ahead of me, since I was a kid growing up, it's something I always wanted an opportunity to be part of. the fact that it’s in my hometown that I grew up in a country that gave me opportunity to even be here, I’m looking forward to it."
Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau was asked if he would be upset if Deng had to have the surgery after the Olympics and potentially miss the first two months of next season.
"I don't look at it that way because I really haven't talked to him yet about next year," Thibodeau said. "I want a chance to sit down and see what his thoughts are and I know he's given us everything that he has, so I have a lot of respect for that. But we'll sit down at the end and we'll come up with a plan."
Deng, who suffered the same injury on his right wrist during his rookie year, admitted that playing through the pain this season was a very challenging process.
"Honestly, my whole career it’s the toughest thing I’ve done," he said. "I look back at it and I’m glad I did it. I really hope in the long run it’s going to make me a better player. I learned a lot of things to be capable to do that. I’m glad I made the decision. we had the best record and we were going into the playoffs with the best team. It was definitely a great decision, unfortunately other things happened."
Thibodeau sounded truly appreciative of the effort Deng put forth throughout the year. Deng, who finished with 19 points and 17 rebounds in Game 6, made his first All-Star team in February.
"You can never overlook this, Luol's a terrific player, All-Star player for us," Thibodeau said. "To play a majority of the season with torn ligaments; he could have chosen to sit out, but it says a lot about him that he played and [he's] a great leader, great toughness, and he does whatever's necessary to help you win. Overall, I thought he improved a lot from last year. I thought this year even though his scoring dipped a little bit I think he improved from last year. His all-around game was terrific."
2dMatt Walks, ESPN.com
2dJason McCallum, ESPN Stats & Info