In a recent CNN interview, Luol Deng talked about what’s on his iPod (“Kanye West, Lil Wayne, Jay Z and Andre 3000. So basically hip-hop.”), his favorite food (“I like Sudanese food, I like Egyptian Food, I like Italian food…I’m very open.”), and the basketball player who most inspires him (“I’m a big fan of Grant Hill.” I know. Insert injury joke here, right?).
Most importantly, though, Deng said he should be ready to return to the Bulls by the preseason. Said Deng: “I feel like the team has given me a lot and I want to give that back. The way I treat pressure is I always work hard and try and show that I’m deserving of it. The beauty of it is that I have another season to go out there and prove myself and love the game I play.”
And wouldn’t the Bulls and their fans love for Deng to do just that? With Ben Gordon launching jumpers in Detroit this season, it’s critical for Deng to be healthy and live up to his potential. And I probably don’t need to remind you that, last summer, the team believed Deng had $78 million worth of potential.
Deng has been on my mind lately because if for some reason he’s not ready to begin the season, or if he gets hurt again, Vinny Del Negro will probably have to move John Salmons back to small forward. That would (I’m guessing) make Kirk Hinrich the starting shooting guard and force Jannero Pargo to backup the one and two spots. So minus a healthy Deng, our frontcourt and backcourt depth will be compromised. No pressure, though.
Deng also discussed what it was like to watch last season’s Bulls-Celtics playoff series from the sidelines: “Being out there and not playing, it was still a proud moment and a proud series — but I can’t tell you how tough it is to watch one of the best series in history go on and to be in the roster but not be able to play. So that was tough but as a team I think it will help us go forward in the new season.”
Oh, and apparently Deng wants to jump right back into the thick of things by taking on guys like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. “Both are great scorers, both are great leaders. I think Kobe has been there longer and LeBron is getting there faster than anyone — but to have both of them in the same league it just makes you want to step up your own game.” Wow. Isn’t that kind of like an injured runner coming back and immediately running a marathon?
Here’s Deng on CNN’s “The Lowdown.”