Luol Deng got what he wanted and now, from the sound of it, the Chicago Bulls will get what they want, too. Namely, Deng ready and available for Bulls training camp and the start of the 2012-13 NBA season.
The concern heading in to the 2012 London Olympics was that Deng’s participation for host Great Britain, as its best player and NBA ambassador in its first men’s basketball competition since 1964, would cut into his day job. Specifically, fans and some team personnel worried about Deng’s busy schedule and crowded timeline as it related to torn ligaments in his left wrist; if he were going to get those surgically repaired, waiting until after the Olympics could push his recovery well into the regular season.
And life already figured to be tough enough without Derrick Rose, rehabbing from the torn ACL he suffered in his left knee in Chicago’s playoff opener.
Initally, some were frustrated that Deng didn’t pounce on the Bulls’ early elimination from the postseason as the time for his surgery. But the 6-8 small forward was determined to play for Great Britain, gobbling up more than three months of the offseason. Now, however, Deng likely will skip surgery and play 2012-13 with the wrist as is.
“Did I look like I needed [surgery]?” Deng said Monday after his squad won its final Olympic game. “I’m fine right now. I feel great. There are a lot of things I want to improve in my game that I want to focus on now. I want to be a better player than I was last year. … I have time to make decisions and be healthy by the time we start [training camp].”
Uh, considering Deng made only 31.4 percent of his shots in the tournament, the answer to his question might not be the one he was going for rhetorically. He averaged 15.8 points, 6.6 rebounds and 4.6 assists.
But Kobe Bryant has been able to play with similar damage to apparently “optional” ligaments. Bulls team surgeon Brian Cole thinks that might work for Deng, and the fact is, Deng played most of last season’s second half despite the injury.
Deng said he had absolutely no second thoughts about his Olympic experience, though at 1-4 Great Britain didn’t get within sniffing distance of a medal. “If the Olympics were next month, I’d play again,” he said. “This is something no one will ever take away. I’m always going to remember this moment, walking out for the opening ceremonies and playing with guys I played with my whole life.”
What he might have second thoughts about, though, is shouldering so much of the load this season for the Bulls in Rose’s absence. Even Deng’s surgeon hasn’t weighed in yet on how his bum wrist will hold up under that burden.