Back at site of 'lowest point,' Deng now at peace

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Back at site of 'lowest point,' Deng now at peace

BOSTON Back at the site of what could have been, Luol Deng is now at peace. Still, although recently named a first-time All-Star, the Bulls small forward is over the past missing the epic 2009 Bulls-Celtics first-round playoff series due to injury but hell never forget.

I think when I had the stress fracture and had to watch one of the best series Boston against us that Ive ever seen and to know that Im on that team, but I couldnt dress up and play, and then sitting there and reading everything, the papers, the fans and everyone saying that I wasnt really hurt, which is, to me, the lowest point and the craziest thing that I ever had to go through. To hear people saying things like that, he said.

I think thats the first time I really went through something like that and I think it really helped me a lot in bouncing back and just knowing how things were. Before, I felt like I was kind of loved by everyone. Thats how I really felt. Through my whole life, I never really experienced that if you want to call it hate or whatever it was until that point and sitting there for seven games, to me, thats the toughest thing Ive ever done through my whole career.

However, as much as the criticism stung, one thing Deng didnt pay attention to was the constantly swirling trade rumors, instead choosing to focus on improving his game.

Thats the one thing, my whole career, Ive kind of controlled. Ive never really allowed the trade rumors or anything else really get to me. There were times when I wasnt happy, but I always believed things would change somehow, he said. But I was never really caught up in, If I leave, what happens then? Whatever I cant control, I kind of allowed that and just left it alone. I kind of really focused on, How do I get better as a player?

I remember I just spent a lot of time in the gym. Went in the gym in the morning, took my lunch with me, ate there and then worked out again, then went home, Deng recalled when asked how he overcame the criticism and reinvented himself as a player. I really just stayed in the gym because I didnt want to be anywhere else.

It paid off. Chicago was an eighth seed the following season also, but after the ouster of Vinny Del Negro, now with the Clippers, Deng came through with one of his best all-around campaigns last seasons, under the direction of novice NBA head coach Tom Thibodeau.

I think the whole coaching staff Coach (Thibodeau), of course since they came along, I kind of feel like my career turned around. Just believing in me, being in the right role and just the teammates that I had, guys that are really fun to play with, he said. Even when I had the recent wrist injury which sidelined him for seven games, when the injury first happened, I think the toughest was not playing with the guys. It wasnt so much anything else, it was just not being out there with them. It kind of, in a way, felt bad, that it happened and I wanted to be back so bad. So really, its a bunch of things. Coach has been great, but its everything around. Everything around, just making it easier for me to come in and play.

From Thibodeaus perspective, even before he arrived in Chicago, Deng was always a great player.

We always thought he was very difficult to guard, from the standpoint of if you lost track of him, he was going to make you pay, the coach said of his view of Deng from afar, when he was a Celtics assistant. When you look at what hes done in his career, each year its been very good. So, when we were playing against him, we were always concerned about him and I think the thing that probably set him back a little bit was the injuries, and you dont have any control over that. The last two years have been relatively good, been very durable last year and this year you cant say enough about him coming back as quickly as hes done that and hes been terrific for us.

Bulls assistant coach Adrian Griffin, a former teammate of Deng and now the staffer who works with the teams wing players, has marveled at Dengs development, perseverance and now, league-wide recognition.

Im very ecstatic, just to be a former teammate, on the coaching staff and just to see how far hes grown as a player, and hes always been a professional, even at the age of 19, when he came in the league. He always took his craft seriously and hes one of the guys that I work with that I really dont have to monitor because he really self-monitors himself. Just a constant pro, so I was so happy because if anyone deserved it, it was Lu, Griffin told CSNChicago.com.

Hes been overcoming injury. Hes overcome criticism from him, I guess not playing through injuries or whatever people said about him Oh, hes not this type of caliber player and I think this proves everyone wrong, that he is an All-Star in this league. He plays on both ends of the court. Hes definitely, along with Derrick, our MVP of our team. Just the things that hes done he guards the toughest guy every night, runs the floor, defends, scores he does it all for us.

All the credit has to go with Tom Thibodeau and his system, and just with Luol Deng and his constant professionalism. I had very little to do with it. I think if you look at just the progress of everyone since Tom has come here, just the hard work and ethic that hes brought to this team, everyones been able to benefit from it and I think, no more than Luol Deng. Its just a great pleasure to be part of it.

For Deng, going through those difficult times were well worth it, considering the position that him personally and the Bulls as a team are in now. He considers the past two seasons the best of his eight-year career.

The last two years have definitely been that. I think just the record last year, going to the playoffs, the attitude, the mindset that we have, it makes basketball a lot more fun. It makes it really so much easier to be in this locker room, knowing that youve just got to do the little things and youll win. Some nights, you dont do much and you still get credit for it, he explained. It just shows how much depth and the players that we have.

"There are nights that I know that I havent played well, but because of the teams success, you get a lot of credit for it and in the past, theres nights where you give everything and you work so hard, and you go play and you dont get any credit, so its really great to be on this side and this kind of team, where everyone in this locker room kind of give it their all for everyone when we go out there.

Edgy Tim goes one-on-one with Mount Carmel's Terrance Taylor

Edgy Tim goes one-on-one with Mount Carmel's Terrance Taylor

Mount Carmel junior defensive end/outside linebacker Terrance Taylor (6-foot-4, 204 pounds) was simply one of the most impressive overall performers at the EDGYTIM Underclassmen Showcase, powered by EFT Football Academy.

Taylor, who worked out as a linebacker at the showcase, also plays defensive end for Hall of Fame head coach Frank Lenti's Caravan. Taylor, who has two early verbal scholarship offers from Central Michigan and Toledo, has the look, tools, overall physical upside and potential to become a highly sought after recruit in the Class of 2018.

Take a few minutes to meet Taylor in the video above.

Fire showing patience with emotional Dax McCarty

Fire showing patience with emotional Dax McCarty

The Chicago Fire opened its preseason on Monday, but much of the focus was on a player that wasn’t there: Dax McCarty.

The Fire traded for the midfielder from the New York Red Bulls last week and he is in camp with the U.S. national team.

Leaving New York hasn’t been easy for McCarty. He tweeted a lengthy thank you note to Red Bull fans on Sunday and still hasn’t mentioned anything about the Fire publically.

Fire general manager Nelson Rodriguez and coach Veljko Paunovic visited McCarty at national team camp last week to make introductions.

“We obviously knew that this had to come as a surprise to him,” Rodriguez said on Monday. “A captain of another team, he had just gotten married. There’s never a good time to have unexpected change hit you.”

Getting McCarty on board with what the club is building is going to be key for the team’s success in 2017. Integrating McCarty and the other high-profile offseason additions, fellow midfielder Juninho and striker Nemanja Nikolic, into what Paunovic wants to implement will play a big role in how the Fire start the season. In order to do so effectively means making McCarty happy with his new team.

“For sure he’s a very, very emotional guy,” Paunovic said. “I like the way he expressed how he feels at this point. We all have to empathize with that and respect his time and the situation that he is going through.”

As poor as the timing of McCarty being traded two days after getting married was, it could be to the Fire’s benefit that McCarty is with the national team now and can have some time to process the change before arriving in preseason camp with the Fire in Florida in February.

“We are waiting for him here with open arms and waiting for him to come back, to handle all this situation, to go through that, then come here clear with desire that he played so far, with the same passion, with the same effort on and off the field and for sure with leadership that he will bring to our locker room,” Paunovic said.

For now, both Rodriguez and Paunovic are preaching patience. Rodriguez said McCarty was the top target of the Fire and said the move was six months in the making.

“We respected his need to breathe and to have time to go through his emotions, to spend time with his wife,” Rodriguez said. “I think everything will come in its due course and when his time with the national team camp ends we’ll give him a little time that he might need to recover from that camp and to attend to some personal matters and we’ll embrace him when he comes.

“For those of us that are married we know that happy wife equals happy life so we have work to do with Dax and his wife and his family and having them feel comfortable about Chicago. They were looking to put down roots in New York. Whether it’s unexpected like that or it’s someone like Nemanja Nikolic who chose us and chose to come here, we still have to work with him and his family and acclimating them. Our approach and our attitude is the same, although the circumstances are different. We have to be empathetic to the sensitivity that Dax and his wife are going through.”