LAS VEGAS — Ex-Bulls All-Star small forward Luol Deng’s decision to sign with his former rival, the Heat, might strike some as odd.
But his Chicago-based agent, Ron Shade, explained that perhaps the Heat’s knowledge of Deng’s game, makes Miami a surprisingly good fit, especially with the departure of league MVP LeBron James to Cleveland.
“I think Miami, obviously losing probably losing the greatest player in the game currently, their team is going to change a bit. The comfort that he had is when we sat down with (Heat president) Pat Riley and since we’ve talked to him, he’s said they know Lu. They’ve played against him. They’ve seen Lu at his best moments and his worst moments, and I think they understand that while Lu isn’t going to fill in for LeBron, Lu can step in and replace some of the things that LeBron did,” Shade told CSNChicago.com. “They’re not looking for Lu to be LeBron. They’re looking for Lu to be Luol in LeBron’s place and that means they know Chris (Bosh) is going to have to be better, Dwyane (Wade) is going to have to be better and Lu can be better. I think that’s the main thing that they see, that the weight is going to be evenly distributed between those three guys and looking forward to the camaraderie that they can build. The truth of the matter is, they still can be a contender in the East.”
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Deng, who was also pursued by the likes of Washington, Dallas, Atlanta and Phoenix, was widely expected to garner a long-term contract of upward of $12 million, and after the Bulls traded him to the Cavaliers following his rejection of a three-year, $30-million contract offer in January, the South Sudan native accepting a two-year, $20-million deal — with a player option in the second year — could seem a bit curious, something Shade admits, though he presented the rationale in the situation.
“The whole process, it was strange. Nothing really happened the way we expected it to, and Lu being the professional that he was, he made the best out of every possible situation that he was put in. He didn’t want to rush through the process. He wanted to hear everything out and kind of look at every option, and look at the pros and cons of each option, and move forward from there,” Shade said. “The Bulls’ offer when he was traded to Cleveland, it was a take-it-or-leave-it offer. In this situation, we still had options. Luol had choices to make. He made them. He decided this, and at the end of the day, while it’s $10 million, there’s no state income tax. So maybe you gain about a million dollars in that. But at the same time, it gives him options. He’s a free agent at the end of this year, and it gives him the opportunity to play out a year healthy, to play out a year in a situation where he can be highlighted. So what’s in the past is in the past. The Bulls’ offer is the Bulls’ offer. Whether it’s good, bad or indifferent, at that time, we didn’t feel it was the right offer to accept for Lu and right now he’s happy with the decisions that he’s made, and he knows it’s going to be great to help him further his career.”