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Next task on Luol Deng’s docket is to become ‘a better leader’

Updated: December 12, 2012 6:50AM

Before taking the job with the Bulls, coach Tom Thibodeau knew there was something different about Luol Deng when he watched him during his days as an assistant with the Boston Celtics.

Now that Thibodeau gets to see him play on an every-day
basis, not only has Deng lived up to his initial expectations, but he has surpassed them with everything he brings to the franchise.

‘‘It was something where I know how I felt when we played against him,’’ Thibodeau recalled of Deng when he was coaching with the Celtics. ‘‘I knew he was the type of guy that if you didn’t pay attention to him, he could really hurt you.

‘‘Then once I saw how he practiced, his makeup and what he’s all about, a lot of guys will say all the right things and do none of them. He’s just the opposite. When he has something to say, he’s going to say it. He’s going to say it the right way at the right time, and then he does all the right things each and every day. And he’s so consistent. He does it that way the entire season.’’

The focus going into this season for Deng was his leadership. Sure, with Derrick Rose (torn anterior cruciate ligament in left knee) likely out until February, his 18 points and 6.8 rebounds per game also would be counted on. But it was more about Deng continuing to shoulder heavy minutes on the court and taking responsibility off it.

‘‘The past two years, I’ve become a better leader,’’ Deng said. ‘‘I’ve got to do a better job of being a better leader.

‘‘We’ve got a lot of new guys now, and the guys that have been here, we do things a certain way. The new guys are totally committed to it, but the next step I have to take is to be a better leader.’’

Thibodeau said what he really likes about Deng is that he will do whatever is asked of him. No complaints, no eye rolls.

‘‘You need rebounding, he’ll give you rebounding,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘If he’s not shooting well, he gives you great defense. No matter how the game is going, he’s always going to be there late for you, no matter if it’s pick-and-roll offense, swinging the ball, moving without the ball, making a great random cut from the weak side. He has great impact on winning.

‘‘You can’t ask anything more of one of your best players.’’

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