BOSTON You saw it. I told you, man, Lus definitely going to make the All-Star team, Derrick Rose said Friday night. If he doesnt, that would be cheating, man. That would be cheating, for sure.
Its hard to argue with Roses logic, especially after Dengs recent play. While his scoring numbers are slightly down from last season as are Roses the fact that hes indispensable to the Bulls is more evident than ever.
And what you could say about Luol? I mean, every night, hes on the board, he gives you points, he plays great defense, hits every big basket for you cant say enough about him, lauded Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, who watched Deng guard Celtics perennial All-Star small forward and future Hall of Famer Paul Pierce, who Thibodeau used to coach in Boston, into a 3-for-12 shooting night. Pauls a tough, tough competitor. He puts a lot of pressure on you. Lu guards everybody. He guards twos, he guards threes, he guards fours. He gets in there, he battles with the bigs. He comes up with loose balls, big rebounds and those are winning plays. Thats how you win in this league. He doesnt shy away from stuff. Again, its great leadership.
For Dengs part, he refused to be read too much into his defensive performance against Pierce or whether he finally receives national recognition for his efforts.
Paul, I really have a lot of respect for Paul. Ive watched him a lot and when Im working on my game, I really watch a lot of stuff he does. Whenever I play Paul, I just try to make it hard for him. The thing that always gets me is his pump fake and we were talking about it, and I think every game I played him in my career, I think he got me with a pump fake and he still gets me every time. Hes just a great player, he said. Honestly, Im not worried about that. Thats the honest truth. Im not really worried about whether people talk about me or not. Im really happy Im playing with a bunch of guys that love playing together and it just makes me a better player. Im just excited tonight. I cant even wait for Saturday, to play again and thats the kind of group we have.
The first returns of All-Star balloting came out this weekand Deng ranked seventh in fan voting one spot behind Pierce with 85,086 votes, nowhere close to enough to be selected as an Eastern Conference starter. However, if Thibodeau has anything to say about it, Dengs contributions wont go unrewarded.
Said the coach, who's prone to playing the South Sudanese small forward workhorse minutes: Hes not overlooked by his coaches and his teammates. We know how important he is to the team and he does it night in, night out. Even the nights on which he doesnt shoot the ball well, he still does so many things that help you win. Hes done everything for us.