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Luol Deng deserves spot in All-Star Game, Tom Thibodeau says

New Orleans Hornets forward Trevor Ariz(1) drives around Chicago Bulls forward Luol Deng (9) second half an NBA basketball game

New Orleans Hornets forward Trevor Ariza (1) drives around Chicago Bulls forward Luol Deng (9) in the second half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2012. The Bulls defeated the Hornets 90-67. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)

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Updated: May 9, 2012 10:14AM



NEW ORLEANS — It’s possible Derrick Rose could be the Bulls’ only representative in the All-Star Game. But at 22-6, the Bulls figure to get at least one more — and forward Luol Deng is the most worthy candidate.

Deng is averaging 16.4 points and 7.3 rebounds — not much different from any other season he’s had with the Bulls. But with the Bulls playing so well, Deng’s less-noticeable contributions might get recognized.

‘‘We have a number of guys who are deserving. You could make a case for Carlos [Boozer] and Joakim [Noah] as well,’’ Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. ‘‘But to me, Luol, because of all the stuff that he brings to our team, it would be a shame if he didn’t make it.’’

The Bulls are 18-3 with Deng and 4-3 without him. Since he returned after missing seven games with a torn ligament in his left wrist, the Bulls not only are 3-0 but they’ve won by 23, 21 and 23. They’ve only trailed for 23 seconds in all three games, with leads of 67-43, 62-37 and 44-31 at halftime

With NBA head coaches doing the voting, is it more likely Deng’s contributions will be recognized?

‘‘No,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘We’re like the writers — we’re messed up. Everyone feels they have guys on their team that are deserving. You’re hopeful that it’s recognized by the other coaches. As an opposing coach, you only see them when you’re competing against them or scouting them. You’re view is different. Those things are always tough.’’

Rose No. 1?

New Orleans Hornets coach Monty Williams all but called Rose the best player in the NBA when asked about the reigning MVP.

‘‘In my opinion, he’s the best player … if not [No.] 1, then 1A,’’ Williams said. ‘‘It’s hard to argue with LeBron [James], [Kevin] Durant and Kobe [Bryant]. But that guy — you have to think about him on every possession. You can’t even guard him with two guys because he’s so explosive. At the end of games he’s really good. He defends.”

Hamilton still out

Guard Richard Hamilton, who left the team before the Nets game to tend to a personal matter, had not rejoined the team for the Hornets game. Hamilton, recovering from groin and thigh injuries, will return ‘‘probably in the next couple of days,’’ Thibodeau said.

Pick and role

Backup center Omer Asik, making steady progress after a slow start, still is getting the timing down on the screen game that makes him so valuable.

‘‘His pick-and-roll offense was outstanding last year, especially at the end of the year,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘That’s something I want us to get back to, because he’s so strong on his roll to the basket. He sets a great screen. He’s a hard guy to get around. So we want to take advantage of that.”



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