Luol Deng is in a difficult spot. While he can not replace the singular talents of LeBron James in the starting lineup, his athleticism and defensive intensity brings a former All-Star to the team that can play a significant role in helping lead Miami into a new, exciting era in Heat basketball. We've looked at Deng's rich and incredible history but focus now on his impact in the cities in which he played. After playing almost his entire career in Chicago, he was traded halfway through last season to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Here we speak to your friendly BullsBlogger, the "guy who does everything" at Blog a Bull, as well as David Zavac, managing editor at Fear the Sword.
These responses are from BullsBlogger:
Despite a long tenure with the Bulls, Deng's contract demands forced a trade last season. Given the fact that Chicago was reasonably successful without Deng, was his importance to Chicago overblown or was it more of other players (Noah, Gibson, Dunleavy) stepping up and filling the void he left?
It's true that in a lot of respects the Bulls didn't skip a beat when Deng left. A lot of guys stepped up as you mentioned, and one you didn't mention was Jimmy Butler who would often log 40+ minutes a night. But Deng's absence did leave the team extremely thin, and thus the minutes piled up for Butler and others. The Bulls were fortunate that they remained extremely healthy during the second half of the season, but the wheels came off in the playoffs pretty swiftly. So I would say that the Bulls second-half might have showed that Deng was somewhat replaceable, but that performance was also a bit of a mirage relative to actual quality of the roster.
At first glance, Deng seems like a fairly quiet person, both on and off the court. Is this a misconception? What's your best memory of Deng?
I think it's pretty well-established around the league that Deng is one of the best dudes in the league, and maybe one of the better citizens of the world. He not only is renowned for his charity work and has won the league's sportsmanship award, but has always been regarded as a great teammate. The Bulls leader Joakim Noah was noticeably devastated after the trade of Deng, not even speaking about it to the media for several days.
That all said, he's definitely more known as quiet than demonstrative. In fact, what makes it hard to pinpoint a 'favorite Luol Deng memory' because he was quietly consistent both in his style of play and attitude on the court. You could say the rare times he got noticeably hyped were memorable, like in this 2011 playoff game against the Pacers:
Overall though, his best moments are probably overshadowed due to having a high standard of play for a really long time.
Although it would seem that Miami, minus LeBron James, is no longer "Hollywood as hell," is there any resentment among Bulls fans that Deng would sign with Miami? Was there any hope - or desire - that he'd re-sign with Chicago?
I don't think there's much resentment, not just because this isn't the same Miami team anymore but it wasn't the case where he took some significant discount to chase a ring there. And that steep price was also why there wasn't much desire to bring Deng back in the offseason. He turned down $10m a season from the Bulls before he was traded, and a lot of fans are probably aligned with the Bulls in not wanting to offer more given the team's current salary structure. After striking out on Carmelo Anthony in the offseason, you could make a case that trying to get Deng back would've made more sense than signing Pau Gasol. However, I don't think Deng was taking the same contract here that he did with Miami, figuring he'll have a bigger role down there as well as some financial benefit with Florida's income tax.
And it's tough to resent his decision because it's nearly impossible to resent Luol Deng. He is one of only six Bulls to have played in 10 seasons with the franchise, and he was a very good player in that time. Granted, seeing him pal around with the loathed Dwyane Wade may be hard to stomach, but while it wasn't meant to be in Chicago it was good to see Deng get his deserved value somewhere.
And these answers are from David:
He spent nine years in Chicago, before spending a little less than half the season as a member of the Cavs. How well did he handle the experience of adjusting to a new team/culture/etc.? Was there a feeling that he was just in Cleveland biding his time before moving on?
In short, it didn't really go that well. I don't know how much you can blame him, though. There were questions about his health, and he did look to be a step slow. The Cavaliers utilized him poorly on both ends of the court. The Bulls defensive scheme is completely different than the one Mike Brown utilized, so there were understandable growing pains where he didn't quite fit in. It was kind of jarring to see a guy with such a great defensive reputation struggle.
On offense, the Cavaliers desperately needed shooting, and Deng just doesn't provide that. I think Deng is a really nice fit next to Josh McRoberts and Chris Bosh. I'm not entirely sure how it will work next to Dwyane Wade. He's a smart player and good passer, and is best working off cuts. That might be a little duplicative with Wade. Still, for the money, it looks like a nice signing.
There are rumors and stories surrounding the Cavs dysfunctional locker room last season. How much of that, if any, is being over dramatized? Also, Deng was reportedly upset with the lack of leadership and possible chaos...as one of most-tenured veterans, what role did he play?
I talked to Deng a couple times after he came to Cleveland. He always said the right things, but it couldn't have been easy for him to have left a playoff team he was comfortable with to an underachieving one asking him to do things that didn't play to his strengths. His body language was not great. I don't think the Cavs had a good situation in the locker room, but I'd point more to Deng being asked to do things he wasn't good at than dysfuction as to why it didn't work out.
What can Heat fans expect from Deng this season, based on the 40 games he played in Cleveland? What were his strengths and weaknesses?
I hinted at it a little before, but it depends largely on his health. I think he's a really good player, and it seems like Erik Spoelstra is a guy who can maximize talent and skillsets. It will help him to play off good passers and high basketball IQ's like Wade, and McRoberts, and Bosh should help space the floor and take offensive pressure on him. If his health is there, you have a great defender as well. Cavs fans in general don't have a high opinion of him, but I think that's largely unfair. He should still be able to play.
We want to thank BullsBlogger and David again for taking the time to answer questions about Deng. Be sure to check out their sites for the latest updates on the Bulls and Cavs respectively.
Stay tuned for Part 3, where we look at Danny Granger.