There aren’t many athletes these days worth cheering for, but Luol Deng is one of them. He is a fighter, and his story is an inspiring one for anyone who thinks their life is too hard or challenging. What Deng has gone through is far more difficult than anything I’ve ever done, and that’s why I was in favor of him playing for Great Britain in the Olympics even though the smart move would have been to have the wrist surgery he desperately needs.
But now that Deng got a win in the Olympics and averaged 15.8 points, 6.6 rebounds and 4.6 assists in five games, the time is perfect for him to have his wrist repaired while also giving his beaten up body some much needed rest. On Monday, Deng asked “Did it look like I need surgery?”
Well… Yes, actually. I find it impossible to believe that Deng feels close to 100% after shooting an abysmal 31.4% from the floor in London. And if he does feel better than he did at the end of the season, that’s because he doesn’t have NBA players swatting at the wrist and knocking him to the ground all game. And how long will it be before Deng feels the Tom Thibodeau wrath of playing 46 minutes a night on a D Rose-less Bulls team?
That’s the issue here. By all of their personnel moves this summer, the Bulls have admitted without saying it that the ’12-’13 season is a wash. Sure, they’d love to sneak into the playoffs as a 7th or 8th seed to reap the rewards of a couple home playoff games, but nothing should suggest to Bulls fans that this team can survive with a limited Deng, a weaker bench & no Rose until March. And as much as Reinsdorf would love playoff money, you know GarPax wouldn’t be pissed if this team ended up in the lottery next spring. You know how much they love “assets.” Maybe that’s why they’re pushing Deng to have this done?
That being said, if Deng was smart, he’d have the surgery now to avoid Thibs running him ragged in a season that simply doesn’t matter. If he had the surgery now, he could return in December or January at the latest. At that point, he could remember what being close to 100% really feels like and could be hitting his stride by the time Rose comes back. And who knows, maybe they win 14 of their last 18 and are the team that nobody wants to play in round one.
That makes a lot more sense than Deng playing his ass off all year only to fall on the wrist and hurt it badly just when Rose is set to return. That would be so Chicago, wouldn’t it? If Deng had the surgery and let the rest of his body recover from Thibs past two years of abuse, he could be fully prepared to ball out at the end of this season and in his contract year of ’13-’14.
The Bulls’ plan is to let Deng’s deal come off the books in the summer of ’14, so Deng should look out for himself right now. By then, he’ll still be in his prime at 29 and looking at another big free agent payday.
It’s virtually impossible not to admire Deng’s desire and will, but he should have the surgery and spare the feelings of his bosses. He’s given them everything he’s had the past two years and doesn’t need to prove anything else. And if you know you might not be a part of this team’s future, why would you go balls out for them now? Get the surgery, Luol.