Luol Deng is eager to pick up where he left off last spring.
Ben Gordon averaged a team-high 20.7 points in 51 games as a starter last season. In 31 games coming off the bench, however, Gordon's scoring average was even better: 22.5.
Record: 49-33 (3rd in East) Points scored:98.8 (13th in NBA) Points allowed: 93.8 (6th) Coach:Scott Skiles (fifth season with Bulls)
A breakout star at forward will try to become a nightmare matchup at guard
During a six-week, seven-country tour with the British national team
this summer, Luol Deng was surprised to hear kids from Belgium to Belarus
screaming his name and waving his picture. He shouldn't have been. In his third
season the 6' 9'' Deng, who was born in Sudan and raised in London, averaged
career highs in points and rebounds and emerged as the postseason star of a
Bulls team that swept the defending champion Heat and advanced to the second
round for the first time since 1998. "Luol's a very smart player," says Chicago
guard Ben Gordon. "He's the best slasher in the game right now. He does a lot of
things to get himself open."
Deng impressively upped his scoring (to 22.2 points per game) and rebounding
(8.7) in the playoffs, and over the summer he worked on ball handling to help
his perimeter game and lifted weights to solidify his post presence. Now the
Bulls are eager to see just how versatile the 22-year-old Deng can be: He had
his breakout season at small forward but spent time at shooting guard in
exhibition games. The objective isn't to take Deng out of his comfort zone but
to create mismatches with his size while allowing coach Scott Skiles to take
advantage of Chicago's depth up front. In addition to having stalwarts Ben
Wallace ("My game really elevated when we added him," says Deng) and Andrés
Nocioni back, the Bulls drafted Joakim Noah from Florida, signed veteran Joe
Smith and expect to see more from second-year man Tyrus Thomas.
If Deng can handle the responsibilities, he may see significant time in the
backcourt. "Initially, we'll look at an individual game based on the matchup,"
says assistant coach Jim Boylan, "but Lu's up for any challenge." Even chasing
the likes of Ray Allen, Richard Hamilton and Michael Redd off screens? "I'm
competitive," says Deng. "I'm looking forward to it." -- Elizabeth