By Paul M. Banks
Heading into this season, Luol Deng had been regressing. Not just stagnating, regressing. Especially for a guy who signed a six year deal worth $71 million, $80 including incentives. After statistically peaking across the board in 2006-07, Deng suffered a step backward in ’08, and then another even worse year in 08-09 that was cut drastically short by injury. After major off-season injury, I bet the Bulls organization was hoping for a refund on that contract.
But that’s all changed through the first 13 games of this season in which Deng’s numbers would set new career highs in scoring (17.5 ppg) rebounds (8.2 rpg) as well as three-point attempts, made, and percentage. As their leader Derrick Rose continues to convalesce, Deng has been the team’s most important player on the court; filling the void when the team’s most talented contributor is not playing at 100%.
The pinnacle for Deng on this young season was his performance in a 83-81 win over Milwaukee on November 3rd. Luol had a career high rebounds (20) to complement his 24 points. He had one of the rarest of NBA feats: a 20-20 game.
“I honestly didn’t know until close to the end of the game how many rebounds I had, just one of those nights the ball kept coming to me, Brad (Miller) was doing a good job boxing out and then you have him, lucky day I guess,” Deng said in the Bulls locker room post game. So what was the key to his success that night?
“I felt like I had a lot of energy, even before the game,” Deng responded.