Deng continues to evolve as a clutch performer

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Deng continues to evolve as a clutch performer

TORONTOLuol Deng isnt Derrick Rose, and he isnt trying to be.

But with the injured superstar sidelined, the Bulls other returning All-Star has been a more-than-competent fill-in for the team in late-game situations. Take Wednesday nights 107-105 overtime road win over the Raptors.

Sure, it shouldnt have got to that pointnot with an 18-point third-quarter lead, another example of the Bulls season-long inconsistencybut Deng ensured they wouldnt blow it, knocking down a pull-up jumper with 3.3 seconds left in the extra session. Afterwards, while the team was relieved, there was a feeling that it was expected.

I thought Lu made a great read, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said. Thats Lus strength right there. Big shot.

Not just the last shot. He had that big three when they were right on our heels and that was a huge shot right there. The guys who have been around and have seen him play a lot, you know thats what he does, whatever you need. You need great defense, he does that. You need a rebound in traffic, he does that. Move well without the ball, run the floor, he continued. To me, thats who he is. Thats what makes him such a good player.

Joakim Noah added: Oh, we have a lot of confidence in Louie. He told meeven before he hit the shothe said, Lets go home. Im going to hit this shot. Lets go home, so yeah, his swag is crazy.

I think all of us probably have more opportunities than we usually do offensively with Derrick being out. Right now, its all about holding the fort down, but I think Luol, hes playing his game and I think that hes somebody whos great because everything he does is within the system and when we play within the system and we play together, I feel like were very tough to beat. Lu can score 30 within the system, just with his cutting and the way he shoots the ball. He can score in so many different ways.

Deng took it in stride, attributing the game-winner to his maturation and development.

I felt comfortable the whole game. I just thought it was a good play, he explained. He was just patient to try and get a good shot.

I think its just maturing and being in the league for a while now, I know what I can do and what I cant do. When it comes to last minutes in the game, Im not as nervous or worried about what Im going to do as I used to be. Theres a few things that I do well and Im going to stick to that. At the end of the game, just stick to my game. I never get out of character, close game or not a close game, just play the same way, he went on to say. With the team that we have now, theres certain guys that weve been together for so long and we just know, Coach calls a play, we all feel comfortable with what were running out there. Before the overtime, we called a play for Marco and we were all comfortable with thatin the overtime, we switched the play and everyone was fine with it.

Thats the kind of relationship and kind of confidence we have in each other.

Deng, who scored 19 points, in addition to seven assists and six rebounds, pulled his hamstring in the opening period, though he quickly returned to the contest.

I tweaked it early in the first quarter. I was going to come out, I came out early, he said. The plan was to come back, but I just felt like I could play through it. Coach kept asking me, the training staff kept asking me how I felt, but hopefully it wont be too bad tomorrow. But just one of those nagging injuries. I just hope its not serious.

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What will Bulls do with Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade?

What will Bulls do with Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade?

The Bulls have made their biggest decision of the offseason but the future of Rajon Rondo and to a lesser extent, Dwyane Wade, is still in the air.

Due to the trade for Kris Dunn and the Bulls having acquired Cameron Payne at the trade deadline last season, it doesn’t appear to be much room for Rondo. Even moreso, considering Dunn and Payne’s lack of production, one would think the Bulls would easily guarantee Rondo’s $13.3 million for next season.

But with the June 30th deadline approaching, it seems more and more like the Bulls will buy Rondo out for $3 million and go with a total youth movement, despite Rondo’s success with guiding some of the young players on the roster.

If not for Rondo’s wrist injury in Game 2 of the Bulls’ first-round series against the Boston Celtics, the Bulls could’ve advanced to the second round of the playoffs. Instead, they’re embarking on what could be a long process that may take years to recover from.

“He’s always been a great teammate and nurturer of the young guys,” said Bill Duffy, Rondo’s agent. Duffy also serves as Zach LaVine’s agent, so he was in attendance for LaVine’s introduction at the United Center.

The handling of Rondo’s benching, re-emergence and subsequent importance to the Bulls this past season has helped Rondo, in a sense. Rondo proved to be a galvanizing force to a degree after being shuffled in and out of the starting lineup.

“I think it’s fair to say he definitely showed a different persona that what had existed but like I said, he’s always been that way, I think it’s more publicized,” Duffy said. “I think he just loves to develop people, always managing and directing. So I think that’s always the case with the younger guys.”

If Rondo is released—and it certainly appears matters are trending in that direction, the 31-year old could have suitors in the New Orleans Pelicans and Indiana Pacers, sources tell CSNChicago.com. One would think the Bulls could use Rondo’s type of straightforward but encouraging brand of leadership in the locker room, but the Bulls have yet to guarantee his contract for next season.

“That’s still to be determined,” Bulls Executive Vice President John Paxson said. “We’re going to sit down with Bill and talk it through. We do understand that veterans are important for a young basketball team, the right veterans – guys that are good teammates, are supportive of the young guys and can continue to teach them how to be pros. Those are things we’ll be addressing.”

“The proof’s always in the pudding and I think if you talk to the front office and coaches, they really love what he brought and how he handled the challenges last year,” Duffy said. “I think we all mature over time and he’s been in the league a long time. He wants to win but he loves the game. I think he appreciates it more, he’s kinda of in his twilight years or approaching it.”

As for Wade, he exercised his $23.8 million option for next season as he was expected to, but that was before the Jimmy Butler trade that ushered in a new day of change.

There’s been speculation Wade would seek a buyout from the Bulls at the start of free agency but so far, those conversations haven’t been held and Paxson intimated Wade would have to give back a significant amount of that money to become a free agent.

There’s been speculation of Wade joining LeBron James with the Cleveland Cavaliers, as well as Carmelo Anthony getting a buyout from the Knicks and following suit.

But the Cavaliers will have very little to offer in the way of cap space, so it’s tough to see Wade giving back a large sum then going to Cleveland for the veterans’ minimum—which would not make up the difference of a “significant” amount.

“I know Gar has spoken with Leon Rose, Dwyane’s agent, As far as the buyout, that has not been broached,” Paxson said. “I would say this: In this type of scenario, it would have to benefit us. It would have to benefit us. Dwyane was a great pro last year, and he’s been around a lot of different situations.”

But with Wade’s history of giving up large sums of money in the name of team, it’s harder to predict his moves. As strong as his relationship with Butler is, the possibility of Butler being moved didn’t affect him picking up his option, so his desire to play competitive or at least meaningful basketball could be weighed against wanting to keep his family comfortable after relocating to Chicago last year and collecting every dollar of his deal.

“He was in Miami when they had a couple rebuilding years as well,” Paxson said. “So right now we’re operating under assumption that he’ll be here. But like I said, if that subject is ever broached by them, it would have to be advantageous for us."