Luol Deng‘s wrist was the story of the summer for the Bulls. There were those who were concerned that by not opting for the surgery, but instead playing for Great Britain in the Olympics, he would jeopardize the start of the 2012-13 season.
Not to worry, Luol Deng will be fine.
Prior to his injury, Deng was a genuine All-Star and for those who have forgotten, this is what he looked like before he got hurt.
Afterward, his play took a hit, and some of that was evident during the Olympics.
Concerns were raised even higher when Deng put up good overall numbers during the Olympics, averaging 15.8 points, 6.6 rebounds and 4.6 assists in five games, but shot a mere 31.4 percent. Speculation ran rampant that it was because his wrist was bothering him.
There was some justification to that. His field-goal percentage dropped 32 points after Deng came back from his injury. Oftentimes it would seem that Deng would not switch hands on the dribble when it seemed most opportune.
It wasn’t just his shooting, either. Prior to his injury he scored 16.2 points and added 7.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists. He also had two combined blocks and steals.
After his injury he averaged 15.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.1 assists with 1.5 total blocks and steals.
It’s pretty clear his injury was affecting him the second half of the season.
His defense also suffered. According to data compiled by hoopstats.com prior to his injury, opponents had an average efficiency of only 11.9. But afterward, his opponents had an efficiency of 14.1.
Prior to his injury he won 11 head-to-head matchups (based upon scoring a higher efficiency than his opponent), tied three and lost only four—a win percentage of 69 percent. After his injury he won 23, tied four and lost 15—a win percentage of 59 percent.
So the question is: Which Luol Deng will be playing for the Bulls this year? Did his Olympic performance prove he should have opted for surgery?
However, there was more to look at than just his field goal-percentage. There were genuine signs of healing. Most notably, Deng was switching hand when he dribbled. He was passing with his left hand. He wasn’t afraid to go up to the rim with his left hand.
You can see some of this in the video below.
The comfort he had in utilizing his left hand was something Bulls fans hadn’t seen since prior to his injury.
Then came the training camp. Why should we believe that Deng’s wrist is fine? Because he says so. Note the words, “the wrist feels great right now.”
And if that’s not enough for you how about because Tom Thibodeau says so according to Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald,
He’s doing all the things he was doing before, so I don’t think it’s an issue.
At the end of last season, left-handed dribbling was an adventure for Deng. So is he driving through traffic with his left hand in practice?
Well, he never did that when he was healthy, Thibodeau said with a laugh. He’s handling the ball. He’s making plays with his left hand. He’s fine. He’s actually playing at a very high level.
Again, he’s fine. Step away from the panic button.
The Bulls will have Deng at his best. In fact, he might be ready for his best year yet. While the wrist might be better, there are also some other things that Deng picked up in his Olympic experience.
With Great Britain, he was the unquestioned leader of the team both on and off the court. In fact, he was the most important figure in Great Britain basketball.
That kind of experience is invaluable to the Bulls as Chicago will need not only need someone to replace Roses’s on-court presence, but they’ll need to fill up his leadership as well.
In what was ultimately a losing performance, Deng still showed he has that ability to step up and carry a team late in the fourth quarter when he nearly led Great Britain to a startling upset of the vaunted Spain, the eventual Silver Medal team.
Deng scored 13 points in the fourth quarter of that game alone.
In the end, it might be that Bulls fans look back at Deng’s Summer Olympics with relief rather than regret. What he learned is invaluable, and it appears that his wrist, at least for the time, is fine. So it appears much was gained at little cost.
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