According to the Basketball-Reference leader boards, Luol Deng ranks seventh in the NBA in both minutes played (2,070) and minutes per game (39.1). Deng has already exceeded his minutes played for two seasons (2004-05 and 2008-09) and is less than two games away from surpassing his minutes played for another (2007-08). His current MPG is a career high and he’s about 14 games from setting a new career mark for total minutes…
…assuming Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau doesn’t give him a break. Or that Deng doesn’t break down.
Check out his game log. Deng has played 40+ minutes 26 times. He has played 39+ minutes 31 times and 38+ minutes 34 times. He has logged 35+ minutes in 45 out of 53 games. He has played fewer than 30 minutes only four times this season.
For some perspective, last season, during which he set his career-high for minutes played, Lu logged 40+ minutes a total of 24 times, 39+ 30 times and 38+ 35 times. This season, he’s hitting those marks before the All-Star break.
Look, all I’m saying is, there’s a history here. A history of sprained ankles, torn ligaments, concussions, sore backs, injured Achilles tendons, stress fractures and calf strains. We’re talking about a guy who has missed 89 regular season games over the course of his career.
So, yes, when I watch him log 43 minutes and 37 seconds in a double-digit win against a sub-.500 team during a game in which the Bulls never trailed by more than two points.
For the record, I’m not just worried about this season or even this postseason. The effect of heavy minutes is cumulative. What about Lu’s health for next season?