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Thursday, February 9, 2012
Bulls' Deng earns first All-Star nod

By Nick Friedell

CHARLOTTE -- Luol Deng has made his first All-Star team.

The eighth-year forward became the 14th Bull ever selected to the game and will be on the Eastern Conference All-Star team alongside his point guard, Derrick Rose.

Luol Deng
Luol Deng has been a key component to the Bulls having the best record in the East.

Deng, who is averaging 16 points and 7.3 rebounds a game this season, admitted that he wanted the honor of playing in the game.

"It would be great," Deng said after Wednesday night's game against the New Orleans Hornets. "Whoever plays in this league always wants to be [an All-Star]. At the end of the day, if it doesn't [happen] you're always a little disappointed, but at the same time, it comes down to hearing from inside the locker room, the guys that you play with. If they're happy with how you play. Your coaches and going in and playing every night. Don't get me wrong, every time you play, [making the All-Star Game] is something you want to do because it's a great accomplishment. But at the same time, it's not in my hands now. You got to just play and just wait."

Deng waited, and it finally paid off, even after tearing a ligament in his left wrist in a game against the Charlotte Bobcats last month which forced him to miss seven games.

Deng decided not to have surgery because he felt the Bulls have a chance to win a title this season. His dedication to the Bulls was not lost on his teammates or coaches.

"I know that I'd probably be more hurt than Lu [if he doesn't make it]," Rose said Wednesday night. "Knowing that he has a nonchalant attitude about making the team. But I think that he deserves it."

So did the rest of Deng's teammates and coaches.

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau understands Deng's impact this season. That's evident in the fact that he relies on Deng to play almost 40 minutes a night.

"You guys who follow our team, I think you understand how important he is to our team," Thibodeau said Wednesday night. "Lu doesn't have to score to have a great impact on our team and winning. He plays great defense. He plays a great floor game. He moves without the ball. He makes the extra pass. And he has very good statistics, but you can't measure his impact statistically. I know what he brings. I know all the coaches and all his teammates appreciate everything that he does."

For Deng and Rose, having two All-Stars on the team makes them believe that the Bulls are gaining even more respect around the league.

"I always said it, even last year," Deng said. "Whether it's me, Booz joining Derrick, or Jo, whoever it is, playing as well as we do, and having the record that we do, I think not only for our locker room, but for our fans, the NBA, what we're doing is something everyone is seeing. So it would be good to have more than one guy representing us out there."