Chicago Sun-Times

Where's the Deng love?

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We're still a month away from the regular-season opener, people, and I'm stunned by the negativity toward Luol Deng.

I understand he missed the final 2 1/2 months of the regular season and the playoffs with an injury, but it's not as if he was sitting out with a hang nail. He had a stress fracture in his shin, and that's not something anyone can (or should) play through.

Injuries are a part of the game and he wasn't physically able to go at the end of last season. Listening to some of the comments, though, it's like he's always hurt and never plays. Yes, he's been hurt at times, but he played 63 games two years ago, 82 games the year before that and 78 games the year before that.

I also understand Deng wasn't playing well before he was injured. He was struggling to adjust to his new role under Vinny Del Negro and didn't appear comfortable in the offense.

But it would be ridiculous to label him a bust and say the Bulls totally blew it by signing him to a $71 million contract. Deng still is only 24 years old and there's no reason he can't reclaim the form of three years ago when he averaged 18.8 points on 51.7 percent shooting.

Right, people?

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Lou-Ow-Ding has earned it. He had such promise. He has gone the way of ALL DUKE players. Hurt when you need them the most. Ding was fine until he SIGNED that contract. Its the timing of his injuries also. That's what hurts the most. He hasn't produced anything after his windfall. And then his name will be forever linked with that rumored Kobe trade, and also Pao Gasol. Rumor has it that Ding was the deal breaker. Can you imagine that... Makes me queasy just typing it. And even when he gets back, he will bring nothing but a soft game full of baseline jump shots from a 7ftr. Its not like he was dunking on people with authority. Salmons made us forget he was over there on the bench except he kept getting up cheering during the playoffs. He even let KG beat him doing that!

LOVE - we would love for him to make us forget that he and Kirk were stealing.

JJ, the negativity on Luol Deng doesn’t just stem from the missed regular season games. It’s the lack of progression in his game that bothers a lot of fans, including myself. His flaws on the court are obvious. He’s not the most explosive and athletic NBA player obviously; his ball handling is average at best; he can’t post in the paint at all (he doesn’t even try); his overall defense is average; his free throw shooting is just above average at best but mediocre for a guy who supposedly specializes in mid-range jump shots; he lacks a killer competitive instinct on the floor; and worst of all, he’s entering his SEVENTH NBA season now and he still can’t shoot the three-ball with any efficiency! Plus, Deng was drafted #7 overall in 2004, has yet to taste an all-star game and now I’ve seen other comparable young small forwards in the NBA who were drafted since 2004 and drafted lower than Deng’s draft position like Rudy Gay, Danny Granger, Charlie Villanueva (I’m not a fan of C-Vill, but he’s still doing more than Deng now), David Lee, Josh Smith, Andre Iguodala, etc….. in the 2004 draft alone, the Bulls passed up on studs like Al Jefferson, Andris Biedrins, Josh Smith, Kevin Martin and even Iguodala and drafted Luol Deng instead! Who messed up on that talent evaluation, I wonder? And then if you’re going to throw out the 18.8 ppg, 51.7% fg statistics at the fans from 3 years ago, Deng’s numbers have regressed since then, while the Bulls awarded him a big contract in between that time period, of which has cash strapped the team’s salary cap flexibility until 2010. Yeah, real smart GarPaxDorf.

So really JJ, is it fair to criticize Deng? Probably not, but the main factor is that, injured or not, I haven’t seen any major improvement in his overall game for SIX long seasons now and frankly, it seems to me that he’s already tapped out on his potential. Deng had the entire offseason this year to recuperate and he didn’t even elect to have surgery done on his fracture, thus leaving the door open for him to come up with more excuses about his slow recovery process. As for adjusting his role under Vinny, what’s next, another excuse trying to adjust to a new starting lineup without Ben Gordon that’ll slow up his 10-year development plan? It’s one excuse after another that Bulls fans don’t want to hear and I don’t blame them, especially coming off a mediocre season before the injury, but after he signed the big contract which basically kicked Ben Gordon off the roster. All in all, JJ, I’m not saying Luol Deng is an NBA bust at all, but he’s not living up to the expectations placed on him as a former #7 overall draft pick, along with a new 6-year, $80 million contract. Sorry man, Lu deserves the fan bashing until he can prove his worth otherwise, nice guy or not.

Maybe the harshest negative comments go too far, but Edgar offers a pretty balanced appraisal in his post. General fan hyperbole aside, the concerns over Deng represent healthy skepticism more than negativity. Luol's own comments since the start of camp sound ominously tentative. And JJ himself points out Deng's decline in games played over the past four seasons.

While I hope that he will, as JJ put it, "reclaim [his] form of three years ago," it is unrealistic to suggest that there's "no reason" he can't. I also agree with Edgar that, even if he stays healthy, at his best he's still displayed enough flaws to warrant a wait-and-see attitude. He doesn't seem to exhibit a consistent commitment to defense or physical play, loses focus (e.g. over trade rumors or other players' getting more shots) and made an irresponsible decision to go off and play in England as soon as he signed his contract – which may have played a role in his physical breakdown last season. None of these traits can be explained by injuries.

Granted they are unproven rookies, but it's hard not to see the selection of James Johnson and Taj Gibson as the organization's backup plan in case Deng can't come back. And if he does, if he puts up decent numbers, and if Johnson or Gibson shows potential, don't think the Bulls won't see what they can get for Deng because by now they know (but don't want to advertise the fact) that he's too fragile as well as too expensive ... and there just might be a GM somewhere that thinks like JJ.

Who wants to show love to a 71 million dollar 18 foot in spot up shooter who is soft as wet tissue and is always hurt when Lebron comes to town.....We let a above average scorer go in order to over pay a average at best player....Say what you want about ben gordon but he played with more heart then Deng will ever have and he was twice as productive he never made excuses about the offense fitting him he just played his heart out as a undersized 2 guard...Put me on the hook for a productive 55 million dollar undersized guard who shows up for 82 games rather then 71 million for a under achieving guy who is scared to play

Good post, Scott. Great additional points about Deng losing focus quickly on the court over the little things. He doesn't want the spotlight and he won't take over games and while that's fine for some fans who like the "nice" guys of the sport, I prefer a little more production and at least a competitive edge from a former NBA lottery pick. You know, I've tried my best to keep an open mind about Luol Deng, I really have. All I ever ask for most players is a gradual progression in their game. Improving points per game and fg% are not enough. When certain flaws are obvious like the ones that have been pointed out earlier in this blog, I like to see them fixed. In Deng's case, nothing has really changed since he was drafted. 6 years, JJ. We're not talking a hotshot prospect going into only his 2nd and 3rd year into the league, we're talking Deng's 7th season already and he still shows the same flaws in his game that were pointed out in year 1 or 2 of his career. What exactly is Deng's signature reportoire in his game again? The 7-15 ft. mid-range jump shot, right? Well, you know what, he's still not exactly mr. automatic with that 2 pointer, I can tell you that much. Can Deng regain the form of three years ago? At this point of his career, he better. Based on early training camp news and interviews, I'm already skeptical of his responses to media questions about his shin injury by saying "it's sore". Not a good start already.

Gordon didn't get any love and all he did was play his heart out as S-Swagger mentioned. All he did was show up every day for 4 years. And although he was the smallest player on the court managed to hit some of the biggest shots since...MJ. And his reward - released into the market like a stray cat or something. Then the owner gets on TV and calls him the 4th best guard in the league. Gordon was actually teaching Rose how to close games under pressure. He didn't fear the big moment, and quite frankly I thought that was an underappreciated ability. Now its with our lifelong rival and conference foe, for the same amount we should have paid him.

This is why Ding cant get any love from me. If he doesn't perform better than Gordon, I will be really angry. His game smells like Dukey.

Ridiculous to say he's a bust ? Well i do not agree.I DO NOT think he is worth a 71 MIL $ contract he has not shown me enough to legitimately say he's worth that much money he has had a few flashes but so has Tyrus Thomas and look where thats going.i belive by the end of the season u wont b saying this anymore and i dont belive he will b a starter by end of season either.I belive he will b an overpaid sixth man.i didnt see him as a great player at duke and dont see him doing anything this season but being inj and the brass will make up every excuse for him bieng they paid that much ...i belive they should trade him now before teams see what a bust this skinny fragile kid is...great role model,but i dont think hell shine srry guys.

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This page contains a single entry by John Jackson published on September 29, 2009 1:08 PM.

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