With training camp almost here, Nick Friedell previews every player on the Bulls roster.
Age: 28 | Pos.: SF | Salary: $14,275,000
Role for Bulls in 2013-14: Tom Thibodeau has said many times that Deng is the 'glue' for the Bulls. He is a two-time All-Star who plays hard every night and has earned the trust of both the coaching staff and the fan base. Deng is one of the best defenders in the league and takes pride in trying to guard LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and the rest of the league's stars each night. He will be looked upon to do the same thing this season -- play solid defense and average 17-18 points a night. Thibodeau noted over the summer that he would try not to play Deng almost 40 minutes a night, as he has done the past two years, but the veteran coach relies so heavily on Deng that will be much easier said than done.
What happened this summer?: Deng spent the first part of the summer just trying to get healthy. Complications from a spinal tap knocked him out of a majority of the postseason and he acknowledged that he was trying to put some weight back on he lost during the ordeal. After spending the last couple summers playing for Team Great Britain, Deng spent some time traveling around the globe doing charity work for his foundation. Both Thibodeau and GM Gar Forman are confident that Deng is in good health now and will be ready for a heavy workload again this season.
What does the future hold?: Deng enters the season in the final year of his contract and speculation abounds regarding his future in Chicago. Deng's name bounced around in trade rumors near the draft but he didn't hold much value considering that teams knew he could walk at the end of the year. Forman noted during the Vegas Summer League that he and his staff are in 'constant communication' with his players and their representatives, but Deng's agent, Herb Rudoy, said that the pair had never discussed any financial terms regarding a new deal. And last week he was told by the Bulls that the organization would not discuss a new deal until after the season.
"Everyone in our organization appreciates what he does and we love Luol," Thibodeau said in July. "The business side, they'll take care of that. I just want him to continue to focus on getting ready for the season and concentrating on winning and that's what he does and that's what makes him so special. So I don't want him distracted with anything and just continue to focus on what's important for us."
The reality is that Deng has given no indication that he'll be willing to take a “hometown discount” in his new deal, and the Bulls, while they respect the veteran's work ethic, don't want to pay him what they will be paying him this year. Unless the sides can find some middle ground after the season, there's a good chance that this could be Deng's last season in Chicago.
Bottom Line: Thibodeau loves Deng and will continue to get the best out of him this season if he can stay healthy.