High time fans, media give Deng his due
BY LACY J. BANKS firstname.lastname@example.org April 27, 2011 8:28PM
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
Come on, Bulls fans and fellow Chicago media members.
Let’s give forward Luol Deng the credit he deserves for being the real most valuable player of the Bulls’ 116-89 victory Tuesday against the Indiana Pacers.
Sure, point guard Derrick Rose is the NBA’s MVP. He gets most of the cheers — and deservedly so. Some even call him the best all-around player in the league.
We also hold forward Carlos Boozer in high esteem, despite his poor, foul-ridden playoff performance. He was the Bulls’ second-leading scorer and rebounder during the regular season.
Then there’s animated center Joakim Noah, a supreme crowd-pleaser and foe-teaser. He plays crowds as adroitly as virtuoso violinist Itzhak Perlman plays the Stradivarius.
Too often, Deng is the forgotten man. Too often, he’s underappreciated for his quality play. In the series against the Pacers, we seemed more focused on what Boozer was doing wrong than on what Deng was doing right.
In the clinching Game 5, Deng contributed 24 points, seven assists, six rebounds, three steals and one blocked shot in nearly 41 minutes. Nobody else was that productive across the board.
After the game, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau called Deng the glue of the team.
‘‘I really appreciate that,’’ Deng said. ‘‘But I feel like, as a team, everyone has a role all year. Guys have been doing a good job of bringing something to the team every time.
‘‘The position I’m in is always guarding the other team’s best perimeter player. I know that if I play with a lot of intensity, it’s going to pick up the rest of the team. Defense is our key. I’ve always been able to score and rebound the ball. My aggressiveness helps us pick it up defensively.’’
I’ve loved Deng’s game ever since he entered the league. I call him ‘‘King Deng,’’ and he gets a big kick out of that.
‘‘I’m always happy to see you,’’ Deng said, smiling and extending his right hand to shake mine after his interview.
In stories about the game, Deng seldom was mentioned — except for his comments about how he thinks Boozer soon will come out of his slump.
‘‘I don’t have to give any advice to Boozer,’’ Deng said. ‘‘He’s been in the league for a while. He’s one of the game’s best low-post scorers. He’s been rebounding great for us. But his [offensive] rhythm will come back, and he’ll be all right.’’
Reserve center Kurt Thomas said he doesn’t mind Deng being underpraised.
‘‘I hope he continues to fly under the other team’s radar,’’ Thomas said. ‘‘That way, they’ll keep taking him for granted.’’
And Deng will keep killing them.