The Amber Alert issued for Luol Deng must have worked, because the Chicago Bulls forward showed up Tuesday night at the United Center after being reported missing for three straight games. Like Rip Van Winkle awakening from a deep slumber, he finally decided to play with the Bulls on the brink of elimination.
He showed up to the tune of 24 points on 10-of-19 shooting from the floor, including 4-of-5 from the three-point stripe. That matched his scoring output for the past three games. In addition, he added eight rebounds, two blocks and two steals.
Where has this guy been? Every time he had the ball, he was aggressively looking for his shot. If he played like that when Rose went down, the Bulls might have ended the series Tuesday, or at least be up 3-2 instead of facing elimination Thursday night.
Even Deng admitted he could do more after the game, saying in the locker room “I felt like I didn’t shoot enough (in the first four games). Tonight I just really wanted to be aggressive. Sometimes when Derrick is out, we just play a little differently.”
Philadelphia Sixers coach Doug Collins reiterated the same theme in the pre-game press conference of which I was a part. “When Rose was playing, Luol seemed to to be playing very well off of him. Derrick would create so many opportunities.”
“Luol was a very opportunistic player. I don’t think there is any doubt that with Derrick not being out there that it’s hurt Luol.”
And that sums up the problem with Deng and his game. You never know what you’re going to get from one night to the next. Is there a reason he wasn’t aggressive in the last three games that the Bulls lost?
A player making $71 million shouldn’t need to be told that. It should be in him to take it upon himself knowing everyone on the team has to do more without Rose and Noah.
He hit some big shots Tuesday, including a three at the end of the first quarter to give the Bulls a one-point lead. There was a shot-clock beater late in the game which looked like a prayer.
Why can’t he play like that every night?
Deng is not the most athletic player on the floor. He’s not a great leaper nor does he possess Rose’s warp-speed. Ball-handling also isn’t one of his strengths.
He’s a guy who got where he is because he always worked hard. John Paxson used to say he would hear a ball bouncing at the Berto Center late at night and it would be Deng. He’s the first to arrive and the last to leave.
That sounds suspiciously like George Costanza from Seinfeld. He would leave his car in the parking lot so that his fictional boss in the show, George Steinbrenner, thought he was always there.
Supposedly that’s not Deng. It would be nice if reality didn’t mirror fantasy and Deng played every game like he did Tuesday, instead of appearing like a slacker far too often.
That’s not too much to ask, is it?
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