Deng all about defense against Pacers


Deng all about defense against Pacers

Thursday, April 21, 2011Posted: 2:00 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam

INDIANAPOLISWith all of the concern about Derrick Rose having to do too much scoring in the Bulls first-round series against the Pacers, one would think the team simply doesnt have capable secondary options. True, Carlos Boozer struggled in Game 1 and although he bounced back with a solid outing in Game 2, he also went long stretches without impacting the game on offense.

But while the Bulls certainly need Boozer to consistently play well for the team to make an extended postseason run, it seems many people are forgetting the player who was considered the teams glue: Luol Deng. The small forward hasnt been as offensive-minded through the series first two games for good reason; his primary assignment has been defending Pacers leading scorer Danny Granger.

Every series is going to be different, if you look at every team. Depending on who we play nextlets say, after this round, we win this round and we play Orlandosomebodys going to have to guard Dwight (Howard) and whoever that somebody is, as a team., weve got to let him know and hes got to understand that affecting that guy defensively is going to help us a lot more than what you do for us offensively, said Deng, who received votes, along with teammates Keith Bogans and Joakim Noah, for the NBAs Defensive Player of the Year award, which went to Orlandos Howard for the third consecutive season.

Thats really how I look at this series. If I have high-scoring games, thats a plus, but for me, making Granger work for every basket, making it tough for himeither he shoots a low percentage taking a lot of shots or he doesnt get a lot of shotsthats really my goal and every game in this series, thats what Im going to do.

Chimed in Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau: The thing with Granger is, you dont stop a player like that. What youve got to do is try to make him work for his points and hes one of the best scorers in the league because of all the different ways he gets it. He can pick-and-roll, he can catch-and-shoot, he can post, hes dangerous in transition, hes a very good offensive rebounder, he can get to the line. What we have to do is be tied together and try to make him work for those points, but hes a load. Hes hard to guard.

Deng knows his offense is a secondary concern for him this series, but while he admits that improved play from Boozer will help ease Roses burden, he also believes that the final result is more important than how it happens.

I know were going to need Boozer. Derrick is carrying a lot of the load right now and a lot of people are talking about, Is Derrick doing too much? but I keep saying, every series is going to present a different story. If we win every game and Derrick scores like that, then thats who we are, thats what were trying to do. If we start losing and Derrick is putting up all these points, then weve got to start talking about other things, Deng explained.

Dengs approach hasnt varied all season, perhaps his best all-around campaign and one in which he played in all 82 regular-season games for just the second time in his career.

It meant a lot. I wanted to get back to that. I tried last year. I ended upI think I played 70 or 72, I dont rememberit was a goal of mine, but then I had that calf strain. Coming into this year, I wanted to make it a goal, to make sure I played every game. I had no idea I was going to play as many minutes as I did. Im just really happy I was able to be consistent and thats what I always wanted to do, just be consistent, said Deng.

When Coach got the job, he called me and he really told me how he felt, what kind of player I could be, how he was going to use me and he really felt like I was very underratedhe kept telling me thatand it helped me with my confidence. When I came in, practicing and the way he was going to use me, I just knew I was going to play a lot.

In the wake of his individual and the teams success this season, the seventh-year pro doesnt dwell on it, but the labelsoftsome fans have put on him since he signed a six-year, 71-million contract extension in the summer of 2008 and was hampered by various injuries cut him deep.

It bothered me a lot. I think what bothered me the most was how the whole injury thing came up. I know its behind me now, but it really bothered me a lot. Just to be called that, knowing what I played througheven before that, with the injuriesI didnt like it. Not that I could help what people say, but it bothered me a lot, acknowledged Deng, who led the Bulls in minutes played and logged the third-most court time amongst his peers in the league this season. I didnt do it play 82 games for anyone. I wasnt trying to prove anyone wrong. The things that were said about me bothered me, but I never really played basketball for anyone but me, so I just felt like I really wanted to do it for myself. Just play the games, help my team as much as I can and really be happy with what I did during the season.

Not just the soft thing. A lot of people said I got paid and I gave up the game, and to me, that bothered me a lot. I dont know how to explain it, but if youre ever offered that money, youre not going to say, No, Im going to take less, but Im still going to play, he continued. The deal was done, but that bothered me more than anything, with where Im from and what Ive been through, for people to think that money would let me give up the game. Thats just stupid.

While the versatile, underrated native of Sudan is now more appreciated by Bulls fans, perhaps nobody treasures his talent more than Thibodeau.

Lu will be fine. You can count on him, said the coach, who wasnt pleased, however, with the technical foul Deng earned in Game 1 of the series for coming to the defense of Rose. Hes going to play defense, hes going to help you execute offensively and hes going to make shots. Hes already proven that. He just has to keep doing all the things hes been doing,

Aggrey Sam is's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Looking ahead to opening night matchup against Celtics

Bulls Talk Podcast: Looking ahead to opening night matchup against Celtics

In our latest installment of the Bulls Talk Podcast, Mark Schanowski and Kendall Gill get you set for opening night against the Celtics. 

They debate realistic expectations for the team and break down the decision to start Taj Gibson at power forward. Later, Schanowski and Gill analyze the team's biggest concern, defense. 

Finally, CSN New England's Celtics Insider A. Sherrod Blakely joins the panel to discuss what Rajon Rondo has left in the tank. 

Check out the latest edition of the Bulls Talk Podcast below: 

Mark Schanowski's 2016-17 NBA playoff predictions

Mark Schanowski's 2016-17 NBA playoff predictions

With the 2016-17 NBA season tipping off tonight with three games, here's a look at how the playoff races might end up.

Let's start with the West, where Kevin Durant's move from Oklahoma City to Golden State may have shifted the balance of power for the next half decade.

1. Golden State (Projected record, 67-15). Sure, it might take the Warriors a little time to build their on-court chemistry, but if you watched any of the preseason games, that lineup is absolutely lethal. Durant looks relaxed in his new environment, and will get more open 3's than he ever could have imagined in Oklahoma City. The "Splash Brothers", Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, should be more rested come playoff time since they won't have to do all the heavy lifting during the regular season. Add in do-everything forward Draymond Green, underrated veteran center Zaza Pachulia and elite sixth man Andre Iguodala, and it's pretty clear Steve Kerr's guys will run away and hide from the rest of the Western Conference field.

2. L.A. Clippers (55-27). It's now or never for Doc Rivers' crew, with a number of key players potentially headed for free agency next summer, including starters Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and J.J. Redick. Griffin got off to a fast start a year ago, but then saw his season ruined by injuries and a suspension for fighting with a team employee. Paul is still an elite point guard, but may decide to leave if things don't go well this time around. Lots of talent on this roster including first-team All-NBA center DeAndre Jordan, and Rivers again tweaked his bench with the addition of free agent stretch five Marreese Speights (from Golden St.), forward Brandon Bass and swingman Alan Anderson.

3. San Antonio (53-29). Never underestimate the ability of Gregg Popovich to put together a championship contender, but with Tim Duncan retired and Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker past their prime, the Spurs don't seem to have the ingredients to survive three brutally tough playoff rounds in the West. This team now belongs to Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge, with former Bulls center Pau Gasol taking over for Duncan. The Spurs are trying to get younger, but it looks like the championship window may have closed.

4. Houston (50-32). Interesting experiment by first year coach Mike D'Antoni to put ball-dominant guard James Harden at point guard. I guess D'Antoni figured since he has the ball in his hands all the time, what's the difference? It's no secret Harden did not get along with big man Dwight Howard (who's now in Atlanta), and he could put up MVP-type numbers this season with the freedom he'll get at the offensive end. More importantly, the addition of three-point shooting threats Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon in free agency could make the Rockets one of the most entertaining teams to watch on League Pass.

5. Portland (49-33). How about another first round playoff shootout between the Blazers and Rockets? We could do a lot worse. C.J. McCollum cashed in big-time after winning the league's Most Improved Player Award, and you can pencil the Blazers backcourt in for about 50 points a night with Damian Lillard emerging as a top 10-15 player in the league. Portland could use a little more punch in the frontcourt, but with wingmen Evan Turner and Allen Crabbe also capable of scoring points in bunches, they should be okay with a big man rotation of Mason Plumlee, former Illini Meyers Leonard, former Warrior Festus Ezeli and young power forwards Ed Davis and Noah Vonleh.

6. Dallas (46-36). Rick Carlisle is one of the NBA's best coaches, and he'll figure out a way to build another playoff team around the skills of all-time great Dirk Nowitzki. Dallas added Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut from the Warriors, and should benefit from a full season from Wesley Matthews. Former Illini star Deron Williams returns to run the point, and the bench is decent with J.J. Barea, Justin Anderson, Dwight Powell and Seth Curry, who played very well late in the season with Sacramento.

7. Oklahoma City (44-38). Russell Westbrook is determined to keep his team in the playoffs without Kevin Durant, which means you can count on Russ playing at an MVP level this season, possibly averaging 30-8-8. I like the addition of Victor Oladipo at shooting guard, but the Thunder sacrificed power forward Serge Ibaka in the process. OKC still has its big man duo of Steven Adams and Enes Kanter, but a lot of question marks with depth on the perimeter.

8. Utah (43-39). After just missing the playoffs a year ago, the Jazz should find a way to break through this time around. Gordon Hayward is one of the league's most underrated talents, and Utah should really benefit from the addition of veteran point guard George Hill, plus proven winners like Joe Johnson and Boris Diaw to help out their talented young players. Derrick Favors has quietly emerged as a rock solid power forward, with the "Stifle Tower", Rudy Gobert anchoring the defense from the center position.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

Now to the East, where everyone's chasing the reigning champions.

1. Cleveland (58-24). The Cavs should really go over the 60-win plateau, but LeBron James understands it's all about the playoffs, and will sit out a number of regular season games to stay fresh. The roster is almost identical to last year's, except for the addition of former Bulls' forward Mike Dunleavy and rookie point guard Kay Felder. Don’t be surprised though if the Cavs wind up signing former Heat point guard (and James teammate) Mario Chalmers when he’s fully recovered from injury. Assuming everyone stays healthy, look for Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and J.R. Smith to take on a lot of the scoring load during the season, and let LeBron put on his Superman cape for Round 3 against Golden St. in the Finals.

2. Boston (52-30). The Bulls' opening night opponent should be stronger than ever with the addition of All-Star big man Al Horford and lottery pick Jaylen Brown. Former Butler coach Brad Stevens didn't take long to master the NBA game, and has waves of perimeter talent to run at opposing teams, led by All-Star guard Isaiah Thomas. Small forward Jae Crowder stole a page from his former Marquette teammate Jimmy Butler on how to be a force at both ends of the court, while big men Amir Johnson, Kelly Olynyk and Tyler Zeller work well in Stevens' system.

3. Toronto  (50-32). Another 50-win season is in the cards for the team from the Great White North. The Raptors kept shooting guard DeMar DeRozan with a huge contract in free agency, and he'll again team with Kyle Lowry to form one of the league's best backcourts. Toronto needs more production from talented, but inconsistent center Jonas Valanciunas and a full season of health from defensive menace DeMarre Carroll. Depth could be an issue, especially with free agent addition Jared Sullinger already sidelined because of foot surgery.

4. Indiana (49-33). The Pacers decided to make a coaching change after last season's first round playoff exit because team president and Hall of Famer Larry Bird wanted to play faster. So, former assistant coach Nate McMillan replaces Frank Vogel, and the Pacers traded for long-time Hawks' point guard Jeff Teague to push the pace. Paul George is primed for the best season of his career, and Indiana made a great under-the-radar pick-up by acquiring power forward Thaddeus Young from Brooklyn. Second-year center Myles Turner should also have a big impact as a scorer and shot blocker. The Pacers also have scoring power off the bench with Al Jefferson, Rodney Stuckey and C.J. Miles. Great offseason for Larry Legend.

5. Detroit (47-35). Stan Van Gundy has done a tremendous job changing the culture in the Motor City, getting shoot-first point guard Reggie Jackson to buy in to his philosophy, while staying patient with Andre Drummond's free throw shooting woes. Drummond is a monster on the boards, and one of the league's best centers overall. Van Gundy also has done a good job on the personnel front, stealing talented forward Tobias Harris from Orlando at the trade deadline last season, and picking up Stanley Johnson and Henry Ellenson in the draft. Jackson will miss the start of the year after foot surgery, but the Pistons should take off when he returns.

6. Atlanta (46-36). It will be interesting to see how the Dwight Howard experiment works in Atlanta, because Howard destroyed team chemistry with the Lakers and Rockets. Howard looked good in the preseason, but will he start to pout in a 3-point heavy offense? Former Bull Kyle Korver is still going strong at the age of 35, Kent Bazemore is a better than average two-way wing player and Paul Millsap is an All-Star going into a free agent season. Biggest question for the Hawks: Is Dennis Schroder ready to be the full-time point guard, or did Mike Budenholzer make a mistake by trading Jeff Teague?

7. BULLS (45-37). One thing we know for sure, the Bulls won't be boring this season with the addition of strong-minded veterans Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo. Wade seems genuinely excited about playing in his hometown, and Rondo spent all summer at the training facility getting to know head coach Fred Hoiberg and his new teammates. Jimmy Butler will be asked to increase his scoring from his two previous All-Star seasons, and the Bulls are counting on Doug McDermott to emerge as an offensive force off the bench. Robin Lopez will provide an upgrade over injury-plagued Joakim Noah in the middle, and the power forward tandem of Taj Gibson and Niko Mirotic should be solid. If newcomers Michael Carter-Williams and rookie Denzel Valentine can gel quickly as the reserve backcourt duo, the Bulls have the potential to be one of the NBA's biggest surprises.

8. Charlotte (43-39). Hornets coach Steve Clifford is a Tom Thibodeau disciple, emphasizing defense over everything else. Charlotte lost productive veterans Al Jefferson, Jeremy Lin and Courtney Lee in free agency, but the cupboard is hardly bare. Point guard Kemba Walker could make the All-Star team this season, and perimeter players Nicolas Batum, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marvin Williams all bring something different to the table. Depth will be the biggest issue with former Bull Marco Belinelli and Chicago-area product Frank Kaminski being asked to provide offense off the bench.

I would like to tell you we should expect some big surprises when we get to the playoffs in mid-April, but it’s hard to envision any team beating Golden State or Cleveland in a best of 7 series. Round 3 between the Warriors and Cavs will find Kevin Durant celebrating his first NBA championship after a Game 6 win at Oracle Arena.