Ben Gordon had the most points in a fourth quarter last season (22), and his 21 double-digitfourth quarters ranked second to LeBron James's 22.
Record: 47-35 (3rd in East) Points scored: 94.5 (21st in NBA) Points allowed: 93.4 (7th) Coach: Scott Skiles (third season with the Bulls)
For the team to improve, a forgotten man must have a year to remember
When the Bulls lost to the Wizards in last year's first round of the playoffs, many blamed it on the absence of injured Chicago center Eddy Curry. Few seemed to remember that the Bulls were also without 6'8" small forward Luol Deng, who had suffered torn ligaments in his right wrist on March 28. "That was me," Deng says with a smile, "the forgotten man."
Not this year. With Curry traded to the Knicks, the Bulls are counting on Deng to emerge as a fourth star alongside Kirk Hinrich, Ben Gordon and Tyson Chandler. With his 7-foot wingspan and quick feet, Deng was an integral part of a defense that held opponents to the worst field goal shooting in the league (42.2%). He also showed a knack for knocking down the open 15-footer and was named first-team All-Rookie after being chosen seventh out of Duke. "He's a big guy who can handle the ball, shoot it, slash to the basket and rebound," says Knicks forward-center Antonio Davis, who went to New York as part of the Curry trade.
While rehabbing this summer, Deng, 20, was unable to lift weights with his right hand, so he focused on making his legs and back stronger. "Hopefully it will improve my defense," he says. He also developed his sinistral side, the result of having his right arm in a cast for 10 weeks. "I had to learn to do everything lefthanded," he says. "Turn on lights, open doors, eat meals, even sign autographs. But I think it's going to make me a better player."
If Deng can add some scoring pop and help get Chicago back to the playoffs, he won't have to worry about being a forgotten man any longer.
-- Marty Burns