Deng's focus is on season, not contract

DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Luol Deng is trying to keep some perspective as he prepares to begin the final year of the $71 million dollar deal he signed with the Chicago Bulls in 2008. The veteran forward knows he will be asked about the deal throughout the season but is trying not to focus on the fact that he doesn't have a new one in place.

"I'm going to try not to talk about it and I'm going to try and do it in a nice way, try not to be rude," Deng said Friday during Bulls media day. "But, honestly, I would rather not talk about it, I would rather just play."

Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau and GM Gar Forman have repeatedly praised Deng over the past few seasons, especially after the swingman made the All-Star team the last two years, but it doesn't appear as if the sides are close to a deal after talks reportedly broke down several weeks ago.

"That's the situation," Deng said. "You sign a contract and it ends. I'm at my last year, so I just got to go out there and do what I've been doing, just play basketball.

"We've got a great opportunity ahead of us. Derrick is back, everybody is healthy. We love the makeup of the team. The potential (is) great. So I think I just got to focus on us as a team and how good we can be. And I think everything will take care of itself. I know it's going to come up here and there, it's always individual stuff. But honestly I just want to put all my attention into the team and see what happens after that."

Thibodeau is hoping Deng takes that approach.

"That's the business side of the game," Thibodeau said in reference to Deng's contract situation. That's something that (owner) Jerry (Reinsdorf), (executive VP) John (Paxson) and Gar (Forman) and Luol's agent (Herb Rudoy) will take care of. Luol will focus on playing, and I know from my end I look at Luol and I see a special player.

"I don't think you can win a championship without a player like Luol. He does so many things for our team that probably go unrecognized by most except his teammates and his coaches and the people that are around him. He's a complete player, he does whatever you ask, he's very disciplined, he stays in great shape, he prepares himself to guard multiple positions, he'll move without the ball, he does a lot of things that make your team better that never appear in a box score."

Forman also spent time praising Deng, but fell short of saying was confident that both parties would agree on an extension before the season begins.

"Luol Deng has obviously been a very important part of what we've built up to this point," Forman said. "Any success that we've had and he will continue to be a big part of what we're doing into the future. I don't anticipate they'll be any type of problems with (the contract distraction) at all. Luol and I talked (Thursday), I think he's in a great place physically, I think he's in a good place mentally and I think he's ready to help lead this team as we go forward this year."

For his part, Deng looks as if he's gained back all the weight he lost during last season's playoffs in which he dealt with complications from a spinal tap.

"It took me a little while," Deng admitted. "It took me a little while to be cleared for running and everything. I just used that time for traveling and once I came back to Chicago I saw my doctor and I was doing a lot better. Once I got cleared I started working out and started getting ready for the season."