Luol Deng fulfilled his role as ambassador for basketball in Great Britain, which won its first Olympic game since 1948 in its final attempt with a 90-58 victory over China on Monday.
Then, he offered good news for Bulls fans, strongly implying he will either forgo surgery on the torn ligament in his left wrist altogether or postpone it until after the 2012-13 season.
Really, Lu? No surgery?
Said Deng: ”Did I look like I needed (surgery)? 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. 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).”
Let’s focus on the first sentence of Deng’s quote:
Did I look like I needed (surgery)?
Well…here’s a look at what Luol did in five Olympic games:
26 points, 8-for-27 shooting (2-for-11 on threes), 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 turnovers
12 points, 3-for-13 shooting (2-for-6 on threes), 8 rebounds, 7 assists, 4 turnovers
26 points, 10-for-20 shooting (2-for-7 on threes), 9 rebounds, 7 assists, 4 turnovers
9 points, 3-for-15 shooting (1-for-7 on threes), 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 turnovers
6 points, 3-for-11 shooting (0-for-4 on threes), 3 rebounds, 4 assists, 0 turnovers
His Olympic averages:
15.8 PPG on 31 percent shooting (20 percent on threes), 6.6 RPG, 4.6 APG, 2.8 TO
The points, rebounds, and assists are terrible. But Deng’s shooting was terrible. And this is coming off the worst shooting season of his career (41.2 percent versus a career mark of 46.5 percent).
Some people — and Chris Finch, coach of Great Britain’s men’s basketball team, was one of them — believed that Deng’s shooting was affected by not getting calls on aggressive drives.
That may be part of it. But it’s not the whole story.
It is my belief that the decline in Deng’s shooting ability is directly linked to his wrist injury. Yes, I know it’s not his shooting wrist, but as this instructional Web site points out: “the non-shooting hand should be used to help guide (a player’s) shots (and) adds balance to the shooting motion.”
Now, there are only eight weeks until the Bulls’ training camp begins, and surgery would likely sideline Deng for 2-4 months. I get that. Would Lu’s absence hurt the team? Sure. But no more than the absence of Derrick Rose…not to mention the valued bench contributors (C.J. Watson, Kyle Korver, Omer Asik, Ronnie Brewer) that management let walk or traded away.
Let’s not pretend the same front office that hasn’t extended coach Tom Thibodeau — which Charles Barkley correctly proclaimed a “disgrace” — is going all out to salvage the 2012-13 season. They’re not. They’re just not.
So why isn’t somebody upstairs telling Deng to either get surgery or take the time he needs to heal?
Well, as we all know, the team held a meeting with Deng at the end of the season in which they tried to talk him out of playing in the Olympics. But Deng insisted on playing for the country that granted his family asylum.
At the time, Deng said: ”Much as I wanted to please Chicago and Chicago Bulls fans, I just hope they understand if I don’t play in these Olympics, it will haunt me for the rest of my life. Giving something back is something that comes from my family.”
Now Deng is claiming his wrist is fine. I call shenanigans.
Either Deng’s pride is making him avoid or forgo surgery, or the team is pressuring him to be available for the start of the season as a form of punishment for participating in the Olympics against their wishes. Or maybe it’s a little of Column A and a little of Column B.
Anybody who has followed Deng’s career only to watch his shooting ability drop off so severely will tell you his wrist is not doing well and he needs to address it.
Look: The Bulls aren’t going anywhere without Rose. The bench has been rebuilt and it’s going to take time to get everybody on the same page. There is no sense in making Deng start the season. None.
But he probably will anyway.