With the exception really of adding Richard Hamilton, the Chicago Bulls came back from the lockout with the same roster intact that earned the best record in the NBA a year ago. And it looks like they have picked up right where they left off. Despite a tough early season schedule that started with a west coast trip, the Bulls are off to a 4-1 start and look to be the biggest threat to the Miami Heat in Miami’s quest to repeat as Eastern Conference champs.
Derrick Rose will capture all the headlines and Carlos Boozer was the teams’ big free agent pickup two offseasons ago, but one of the biggest keys to Chicago’s success is Luol Deng. The former Blue Devil brings a toughness and a grit to the Bulls and has a tendency to fill up the stat sheet as well. Not to mention when the Bulls get back into the playoffs, Deng will be the one responsible for guarding players like Danny Granger from Indiana, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, or even Paul Pierce. With just rookie Jimmy Butler behind him on the depth chart, it would not be over-the-top to say Deng is invaluable to Chicago’s success.
Luol Deng joined WSCR in Chicago with Jason Goff and Matt Bowen to talk about what happened for the team the other night against Memphis, how nice it was for the team to play as well as they did to start the season on the west coast, if he looks at his NBA career in different segments with some injuries and struggles before finally turning things around, and how tough the 66 game season will be.
On what happened for the team the other night against Memphis:
“You know what it is is we just showed how good we could be. Memphis is a very good team. That’s a team, the exact team that beat San Antonio last year. We were just so excited. Even before the game we were talking about it. We just wanted to play in front of our home court. With the lockout and everything, it’s New Year’s now and we’re finally playing at home. We played the first four games on the road and saw every team booing us and cheering their team on. There was a lot of excitement being home.”
How nice it was for the team to play as well as they did to start the season on the west coast:
“It was great. With the way Coach Thibs is, we were still disappointed we lost one game. We were just so locked in and focused. We had a great training camp and we really wanted to go out and start the season right by winning all the games. We came up a little short. That game actually kinda helped us win the next two games over Sacramento and the Clippers but the focus was there from the start.”
Whether or not he looks at his NBA career in different segments with some injuries and struggles before finally turning things around:
“You never really envision it that way. You just try to be the best you can be once you’re in the NBA and you start your career. The thing with me is I kept my mouth shut the whole time but I battled some injuries, I battled some serious injuries that would have set a lot of people back. I had to fight to get back to the level I was in before those injuries occurred. Being a professional I always just listened and kinda you know did my thing. The best thing that really happened for me was Coach Thibs coming over here. His style of play and the way we play really fits me. It fits who I am and now I can just go out and play basketball. I don’t have to worry so much about one thing. I just try to play as hard as I can and at the end of the day if that brings us a win that’s really how I’m taking every game. I just go out there, we all do as a team, we just go out there and play hard.”
How tough the 66 game season will be for him:
“I’m mature enough now where I do a good job of taking care of my body and I do a good job of resting. I know what to do after a game to get back to recovery. All that being said, 66 games there’s going to be a lot of pounding but I’d rather be playing games than practicing. After games I feel I can play another game. We practice so hard that we can go out there and play as hard as we can because we’ve done it in practice and everything. I think I’m prepared for it. This is definitely going to be a different year because I’ve never played 66 games in such a short time but I think I’ll be fine.”
How important Carlos Boozer is to the team’s success:
“Carlos is very important. You can see when Carlos is playing great it makes it so hard for that defense to do anything. Can’t double team Derrick, but Carlos has been working very hard. Even in the summer he came in and lost weight. We expect him to pick it up and have more games like the other night. He’s in early and he’s working hard. We just have a group of guys that if you’re not working hard and not coming in and doing extra stuff you will stand out. That’s really the type of team we have. I’m coming to the gym hours early and you will see guys drenched, sweating, and been working. I can’t always say I’ve seen that in the past.”