- Nick Friedell, ESPN Staff Writer
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LAS VEGAS -- Chicago Bulls forward Luol Deng has faced some criticism for his decision to put off wrist surgery in order to play for the British team in the London Olympics later this summer, but Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski came to his former player's defense Friday afternoon.
"I love the fact that he is that loyal to his country," said Krzyzewski, who coached Deng at Duke. "Luol is one of the great guys on this planet, and besides being a very talented player, he has a heart and feelings of a remarkable guy. Great Britain did something for his country, for his family that saved their lives. His dad was in exile in Great Britain, so there's an allegiance there. I love the fact he feels that way. I'm proud of him, I'm proud to have coached him and I'm even more proud to be his friend. He's one exceptional human being."
When asked whether he understood why the Bulls would be upset with Deng for putting off the surgery, Krzyzewski reiterated his support for the All-Star forward, saying he believes this experience will make his former player stronger.
"I'm not going to deal with that," the Hall of Fame coach said. "Obviously, they have their concerns. I'm not saying who's right or wrong. I'm just saying that an individual has the right to make that type of decision unless it says something contractually that he should not. So my feeling on it is, Luol will have his best year as a Bull next year as a result of making this type of commitment because he's loyal and he's ... the best. He's one of the great guys."
Deng acknowledged recently to ESPN.com after a training session with Britain that the Bulls' brass didn't want him to play in the Olympics.
"I wouldn't want me to play (in the Olympics), either," he said. "(Bulls executive vice president John Paxson) is an athlete, and, as an athlete who used to play, Pax understands me wanting to play. But as a GM, that's his job to try and get the team healthy and get the team ready for next year. I understand both sides to it.
"But it comes down to an injury that happened at the wrong time. I just try to let people know I'm going to be OK."
To that point, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau told ESPN Chicago's "Waddle and Silvy Show" that he didn't believe Deng would have to have the surgery after the Olympics and would be ready for training camp.
"He's feeling a lot better; his wrist is a lot stronger," Thibodeau said last week on ESPN 1000. "I think it's going to work out well."
10hMatt Walks, ESPN.com