Deng's defensive effort praised by peers

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Deng's defensive effort praised by peers

Thursday, April 7, 2011
Posted: 1:32 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

Its no secret that the Bulls are one of the elite defensive units in the NBA. When its all said and done, however, theres a chance that none of their players will reap any individual benefits for their stinginess on that end of the floor.

Luol Deng, in particular, has established himself as the teams top defender. The seventh-year pro has guarded a variety of positions and while hes not considered a lockdown guy on the level of Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen, his determination, size and length clearly bother his opponents on a nightly basis.

Not that Deng was a poor defender coming into this season, but playing in first-year Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeaus help-oriented scheme has elevated his prowess on that side of the ball this season. Even if voters for the leagues All-Defensive Team dont notice, his teammates certainly have.

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I can see a big improvement in his defense, Bulls guard Jannero Pargo, who has now played with Deng in three separate stints with the Bulls after being signed by the team last month, told CSNChicago.com.

The main thing is, hes getting up and putting pressure on guys, hes challenging shots and hes accepting the challenge, he continued. If somebody gets it going, we can put Lu on him and hell shut him down.

Thibodeaus defensive scheme helps him incredibly. Here, the philosophy is were all on a string. If a guy even looks like hes about to get beat, the next guy rotates and everybody else falls in line. I think its a great scheme to have and its been working out, not only for Lu, but for the entire team.

Added Taj Gibson: The minutes hes played just shows he goes full steam. Hes always the first guy to sprint to every loose ball. Every time hes on defense, he has good drops, so I dont see why Deng wouldnt make the All-Defensive Team.

Ronnie Brewer, regarded as a solid perimeter defender himselfBrewers strength is playing the passing lanes for steals, a category in which he leads the Bullsthought highly of Deng before arriving in Chicago. Now, however, he fully appreciates his teammates combination of talent and work ethic.

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I thought overall he was just solid. He was solid on both ends of the floor. If youre a student of the game, you know the game of basketball, I think hes one of the most underrated players in the league. He doesnt get a lot of attention, but he brings it, night in and night out, and he doesnt really get recognized for the effort he makes defensively, Brewer told CSNChicago.com. The little things that he doeshelping, sliding over, taking charges, really slowing down his man, no matter who it isactually being on his team, you can see it up close and personal, the job that he does. Hes done a phenomenal job this year.

Brewer also believes that Deng should receive consideration for postseason honors, but noted that other Bulls have also stepped up their defense.

You can go with a lot of guys on this team. A lot of guys have stepped up out of the norm form what theyve done and taken it a step higher. Boozers playing better defense, D. Rose, Keith is always a solid defender, Joakim is in there, Taj, Omerits a lot of guys on the teambut thats part of the reason were one of the better-defending teams in this league.

Thibodeau, who only stumps for his players through the media on occasion, has made it a point to highlight Dengs all-around game this season.

It would be a shame if Lu got overlooked. By far, hes our best individual and team defender. He takes the challenge, guards twos, threes and fours. Weve had a lot of guys make big improvement this year and the teams committed to each other, and thats why the defense works, said Thibodeau, who cited former protgs Kendrick Perkins and Kevin Garnett, as well as Phoenixs Grant Hill, Houstons Chuck Hayes and ex-Bulls Kirk Hinrich and Thabo Sefolosha as worthy candidates. He plays great defense, both individual and team defense.

Hes an all-around player and he adds a lot to the team. I dont think his statistics reflect how valuable he is to our team.

As an example, he used Dengs late-game defense on Phoenixs Vince Carter in the Bulls narrow win Tuesday.

It wasnt a great game for him for three quarters of the game, but in the end, hes going to do whatever is needed. Hes a great competitor. Vince is a tough player. The only thing you can do in those situations is make him work as much possible, explained Thibodeau. Luol, you cant say enough about what he does for our team each and every night. You cant measure it statistically. The guy has a lot of toughnessmental toughnessand he never quits. Hell keep coming, hell keep battling and you need that.

As for Deng, while he usually eschews individual praise, he did show an interest in receiving acclaim for his defense.

It would be great. With the team defense we have, I think having someone on there makes sense, said Deng. The teams defensive scheme helped me more than my offense. The trust in my teammates being there, just knowing the system in and out, kind of just going with the game plan, taking those guys strengths away.

I really like the responsibility of just taking whoever the main guy is, if I can. Other nights, some other guy might be playing him better. All year, Ive been taking that challenge and it really comes back to everyone giving something different to the team when one thing isnt going right.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com'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.

New teammates, new changes put Jimmy Butler at ease

New teammates, new changes put Jimmy Butler at ease

The earrings were gleaming from Jimmy Butler’s ears, as he was his usual-disarming self with a playful smile and wink during his question-and-answer session with the Chicago media.

At a point, he took a deep breath as he looked around the Advocate Center with some of his new teammates walking around, some of whom had to carry nameplates because they weren’t recognizable faces in this new setting.

And because new faces are in town, it means two things: some faces left town and for Butler’s sake, the new ones will only know him as “Jimmy Butler, All-Star”, not the guy who was a late first-round pick, not the player who couldn’t get off the bench.

Butler didn’t bring up his comfort level, but when asked, he didn’t deny things appear to be a bit easier this time around.

“Does it make me feel more comfortable? I mean, to an extent, yeah, because then you can never say how you may have think that I’ve changed,” Butler said.

Butler’s ascension rubbed some the wrong way last season, and it’s been spoken about ad nauseam, whether it was true or not. But the moment of honesty wasn’t so much a shot at Derrick Rose or Joakim Noah, who departed for the Knicks in various forms; however it was an admission to his level of security, one that perhaps can lead to a more peaceful existence with all the core pieces.

The one way he’s always lead and will always speak to, is by example and work ethic. It’s one that turned him into an All-Star and Olympian.

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“I think everybody that’s on this roster now just knows how hard that I’ve worked to get to this spot that I’m at,” Butler said. “They’ve seen it. They’ve witnessed it. All they’ve been around for me is this point of my career. I don’t know if it sounds bad. But I think that all these guys look at, ‘If Jimmy works like that and if I work like that, I’ll be in the same position that he’s in.’ I’ll be more than happy to let you have that position because I think hard work can get you anywhere that you want to get to.”

So with that, Butler volunteered himself to Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg, to be the sacrificial lamb of wrath if need be. Easy to say if he doesn’t actually believe Hoiberg is capable of going from nice guy to madman at a moment’s notice but Butler laid it out for the record.

“I told Fred, ‘As much as you can, use me as an example. I want you to really get on my tail about every little thing.’,” Butler said. “Because if Doug or Tony or whoever it may be is watching coach talk to me like that, it’s going to be like, ‘If he can talk to Jimmy like that, I know he’s going to come at me a certain way.’ That’s what I try to remind him every day. I think he’s ready for that. I’m a player. I’m coachable like everybody else. I want that. I need that.”

The additions of Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo add championship receipts to a locker room that needs it, considering the Bulls want to play their young pieces. Wade and Rondo, the Bulls privately believe, will help Butler deal with everything that comes with a new role of leadership — and by proxy, Butler’s relationship and expectations of Hoiberg.

“He was put in a position last year he wasn't familiar with and I think we'll see growth from it,” Bulls general manager Gar Forman said. “The great thing about Jimmy is you know he comes in each and every day and gives 100 percent. He gets better every year and I think we'll continue to see that growth in his game and him as a person. I think that experience with USA basketball was real positive for him.”

Whether the trio lives up to the “Three Alphas” nickname remains to be seen, but after having a locker room with too many low-pitched voices, perhaps the change in pace — any change in pace — will be a welcome one for Butler.

“The Alpha thing, I think we’ll be just fine. Everybody is going to have something to say,” he said. “As long as everybody is listening and is willing to take some criticism if you’re doing something wrong, just like if you’re doing something right I’m going to tell you, there’s good and bad in everything you do. At the end of the day, as long as we win games, it won’t matter.”

Bulls' Jimmy Butler wants tough coaching from Fred Hoiberg this season

Bulls' Jimmy Butler wants tough coaching from Fred Hoiberg this season

 

Much was made of the Jimmy Butler-Fred Hoiberg dynamic last year.

As the duo head into Year 2 together with a very different Bulls roster, Jimmy Butler was very clear about one thing he wants out of his coach this season.

“I told Fred, ‘As much as you can, use me as an example,’” Butler said during the team’s media day on Monday. “I want you to really get on my tail about every little thing because if Doug (McDermott) or Tony (Snell) or whoever it may be, if watching coach talk to me like that he’s going to be like ‘If he can talk to Jimmy like that I know he’s going to come at me a certain way.’ So that’s what I try to remind him everyday. I think he’s ready for that. I’m a player. I’m coachable like everybody else, but I want that. I need that.”

Butler’s show of confidence in his coach didn’t stop at his belief that Hoiberg could follow through on Butler’s desire to be coached hard. The All-Star believes Hoiberg has improved as a coach heading into his second year on the job.

“It was his first year last year and I think he studied himself and us and the way we were up and down in so many areas of the game last year,” Butler said. “He’s trying to correct it. That’s just like anybody going into the offseason. He didn’t just not work. He studied and got better at what he needed to get better at. I think he’s ready moving forward.”