Sunday, June 24, 2012
Updated: June 25, 3:53 PM ET
Luol Deng not dismissing rumors
By Ian Whittell
Special to ESPNChicago.com
HOUSTON -- Chicago Bulls forward Luol Deng revealed this weekend that he will not be surprised if the team trades him this offseason.
While at training camp in Texas with Great Britain's national team preparing for the London Olympics, Deng said he does not believe the Bulls are shopping him in retaliation for his decision to delay the wrist surgery he needs until after the Games.
But Deng, 27, did acknowledge that he's not dismissing recent reports suggesting the Bulls are willing to trade him for a top pick in Thursday's NBA draft, with speculation mounting that Chicago could send Deng to the Golden State Warriors in exchange for the No. 7 overall pick.
Former NBA guard Speedy Claxton, now a scout for the Warriors, attended Britain's practice at the Toyota Center on Sunday afternoon.
"I believe there is always to some extent truth behind rumors," Deng said. "But as an athlete, if you get caught up in them, you are really wasting your time because it's not something you can control.
"If it's not true, a GM could always come out and say it's not true. But if a GM doesn't come out and say it, there are probably talks. And there should be. If I was a GM I would be shopping players around, too. I've got to show that I'm doing something.
"A lot of GMs don't just sit there, they're trying their options. Me, I always say there are two things when trades happen -- if I was to be let go by a team and nobody picks me up, that's probably the worst thing. But whenever you hear your name in a trade, that means there is somebody at the other end who wants you.
"As much as I want to stay on the team -- I love Chicago, I love the Bulls -- at the same time, I know the business part of it. Sooner or later, all the rumors are going to come up."
The apparent unease between the team and Deng stems from the end of the Bulls' season when, following their first-round playoff exit to the Philadelphia 76ers, Deng insisted he would not alter his long-held plans to represent Britain, the country that granted his family political asylum from the Sudan, in the Olympics.
Deng, who was raised from the age of 10 in London, had been carrying a wrist ligament injury for much of the season, yet still led the league in minutes with 39.4 per game.
However, Bulls management told Deng it would have preferred him to miss the Olympics -- the first in which Britain will enter a basketball team since 1948 -- in order to undergo surgery that would ensure his health for the start of the 2012-13 NBA season.
In a tense exit interview before Deng left Chicago, he told Bulls management that he would not entertain the prospect of missing out on the Games and presented an argument that he might not, in any case, require surgery before the start of the season.
Deng, though, does not believe the Bulls have acted in response to his stance.
"I don't think so," he said. "Me and (coach Tom Thibodeau) have a very close relationship. I spoke to (GM) Gar (Forman), I spoke to (VP of basketball operations John) Paxson, and it's one of those things you don't want to bring up.
"He's doing his job. As much as I'm playing basketball, working out, I'm doing my job. You just let it be. If it's going on, it's going on. At the end of the day there are no hard feelings and I'm not a 21-year-old kid who will get upset by it. I understand the game.
"I wouldn't want me to play (in the Olympics) either. Pax 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."
Ian Whittell is a contributor to ESPN.com.
As much as I want to stay on the team -- I love Chicago, I love the Bulls -- at the same time, I know the business part of it. Sooner or later, all the rumors are going to come up.
-- Luol Deng