Bulls

Deng's defensive effort praised by peers

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Deng's defensive effort praised by peers

Thursday, April 7, 2011
Posted: 1:32 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

Its no secret that the Bulls are one of the elite defensive units in the NBA. When its all said and done, however, theres a chance that none of their players will reap any individual benefits for their stinginess on that end of the floor.

Luol Deng, in particular, has established himself as the teams top defender. The seventh-year pro has guarded a variety of positions and while hes not considered a lockdown guy on the level of Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen, his determination, size and length clearly bother his opponents on a nightly basis.

Not that Deng was a poor defender coming into this season, but playing in first-year Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeaus help-oriented scheme has elevated his prowess on that side of the ball this season. Even if voters for the leagues All-Defensive Team dont notice, his teammates certainly have.

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I can see a big improvement in his defense, Bulls guard Jannero Pargo, who has now played with Deng in three separate stints with the Bulls after being signed by the team last month, told CSNChicago.com.

The main thing is, hes getting up and putting pressure on guys, hes challenging shots and hes accepting the challenge, he continued. If somebody gets it going, we can put Lu on him and hell shut him down.

Thibodeaus defensive scheme helps him incredibly. Here, the philosophy is were all on a string. If a guy even looks like hes about to get beat, the next guy rotates and everybody else falls in line. I think its a great scheme to have and its been working out, not only for Lu, but for the entire team.

Added Taj Gibson: The minutes hes played just shows he goes full steam. Hes always the first guy to sprint to every loose ball. Every time hes on defense, he has good drops, so I dont see why Deng wouldnt make the All-Defensive Team.

Ronnie Brewer, regarded as a solid perimeter defender himselfBrewers strength is playing the passing lanes for steals, a category in which he leads the Bullsthought highly of Deng before arriving in Chicago. Now, however, he fully appreciates his teammates combination of talent and work ethic.

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I thought overall he was just solid. He was solid on both ends of the floor. If youre a student of the game, you know the game of basketball, I think hes one of the most underrated players in the league. He doesnt get a lot of attention, but he brings it, night in and night out, and he doesnt really get recognized for the effort he makes defensively, Brewer told CSNChicago.com. The little things that he doeshelping, sliding over, taking charges, really slowing down his man, no matter who it isactually being on his team, you can see it up close and personal, the job that he does. Hes done a phenomenal job this year.

Brewer also believes that Deng should receive consideration for postseason honors, but noted that other Bulls have also stepped up their defense.

You can go with a lot of guys on this team. A lot of guys have stepped up out of the norm form what theyve done and taken it a step higher. Boozers playing better defense, D. Rose, Keith is always a solid defender, Joakim is in there, Taj, Omerits a lot of guys on the teambut thats part of the reason were one of the better-defending teams in this league.

Thibodeau, who only stumps for his players through the media on occasion, has made it a point to highlight Dengs all-around game this season.

It would be a shame if Lu got overlooked. By far, hes our best individual and team defender. He takes the challenge, guards twos, threes and fours. Weve had a lot of guys make big improvement this year and the teams committed to each other, and thats why the defense works, said Thibodeau, who cited former protgs Kendrick Perkins and Kevin Garnett, as well as Phoenixs Grant Hill, Houstons Chuck Hayes and ex-Bulls Kirk Hinrich and Thabo Sefolosha as worthy candidates. He plays great defense, both individual and team defense.

Hes an all-around player and he adds a lot to the team. I dont think his statistics reflect how valuable he is to our team.

As an example, he used Dengs late-game defense on Phoenixs Vince Carter in the Bulls narrow win Tuesday.

It wasnt a great game for him for three quarters of the game, but in the end, hes going to do whatever is needed. Hes a great competitor. Vince is a tough player. The only thing you can do in those situations is make him work as much possible, explained Thibodeau. Luol, you cant say enough about what he does for our team each and every night. You cant measure it statistically. The guy has a lot of toughnessmental toughnessand he never quits. Hell keep coming, hell keep battling and you need that.

As for Deng, while he usually eschews individual praise, he did show an interest in receiving acclaim for his defense.

It would be great. With the team defense we have, I think having someone on there makes sense, said Deng. The teams defensive scheme helped me more than my offense. The trust in my teammates being there, just knowing the system in and out, kind of just going with the game plan, taking those guys strengths away.

I really like the responsibility of just taking whoever the main guy is, if I can. Other nights, some other guy might be playing him better. All year, Ive been taking that challenge and it really comes back to everyone giving something different to the team when one thing isnt going right.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

Bulls continue stockpiling young point guards

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USA TODAY

Bulls continue stockpiling young point guards

Point Guard of the Future Part VIII? 

The Bulls added another guard to their already-claustrophobic backcourt on Monday, claiming Kay Felder off free agency waivers, according to The Vertical's Shams Charania. 

Felder, 22, was dealt alongside Richard Jefferson from the Cavaliers to the Hawks on Saturday before being immediately waived.

The Bulls then decided to take a flyer on the Oakland University product because why the heck not? Barring some type of NBA miracle, the Bulls are on a season-long march to the lottery, so adding another young player can't hurt. Even if Felder is now the fifth point guard, joining Cameron Payne, Kris Dunn, Ryan Arcidiacono and Jerian Grant, on the squad. 

In 42 games with the Cavs last season, Felder averaged four points and 1.4 assists in just over nine minutes. He was drafted with the hope that he could further his NCAA reputation as a scorer. However, he connected on just 39 percent from the field during his rookie season. He's also undersized -- like Nate Robinson-Isaiah Thomas Undersized -- lowering his ceiling as a defender. 

Whether he can find a niche as a second-unit heat check guy remains to be seen, but with Kris Dunn expected to miss a few weeks, it gives Fred Hoiberg another option at the very least. He's also former NBA All-Star Steve Smith's cousin, should you believe in the power of basketball families. 

In a corresponding move, the Bulls waived Diamond Stone and preseason hero, Jarell Eddie. 

Observations from the Bulls' preseason finale loss to the Raptors

Observations from the Bulls' preseason finale loss to the Raptors

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Justin Holiday shines again

It's pretty evident who the leader of the Bulls is through the preseason. Whether he wanted it or not - and it seems like he did - Justin Holiday is the go-to man in Chicago. He finished his impressive presason with a 17-point outing against the Raptors, including 6-for-12 shooting, four 3-pointers, a steal and a block in 28 minutes. He even added four assists, showing some playmaking to go along with his scoring. He finishes the preseason averaging 17.2 points on 44 percent shooting, 57 percent (!!) from deep and 1.6 steals. He and LaVine will be fun to watch together on the wing.

Lauri Markkanen's jumper stays confident

Lauri Markkanen's NBA career got off to a rough start. But he's more than righted the ship. Gone is the 1-for-9 performance in his first outing, and in is the 11-for-21 he shot in his final two games. That included 7-for-12 from deep, and he even added seven rebounds on Friday against Toronto. Markkanen has plenty of weight to put on before he can hang inside - Toronto's tough interior pushed him around quite a bit in his 29 minutes - but this was another step in the right direction for Markkanen, whose back issues seemed non-existent.

Jerian Grant flirts with a triple-double

Jerian Grant was likely to earn the starting point guard job out of training camp even if Kris Dunn didn't get injured, and tonight would have solidified it. Grant had 10 points, nine rebounds and eight assists in 27 efficient minutes. Though Kyle Lowry had his way (17 points in 26 minutes) that was more or less to be expected. But Grant was confident stepping into his shot, played aggressive on defense (two steals, two fouls) and found plenty of open shooters. The Bulls may struggle this season, but Fred Hoiberg has to be happy starting a backcourt of Grant and Holiday.

Bobby Portis: Some good, some really bad

Bobby Portis has had a not-so-great preseason, so it was nice to see him score 12 points on 5-for-6 shooting and grab four rebounds in his preseason finale. Then again, he played 18 minutes and somehow committed eight turnovers. Between losing balls in traffic, errant passes and some head-scratching decisions, it was tough to call Portis' night a success. He should find time on the second unit, but he needs to show improvement in all areas, not just scoring.

Antonio Blakeney gives it one (nine) last shot(s)

It'd be nice to see a great story like Antonio Blakeney stick on the Bulls' roster, and he made sure he was remembered in his final preseason game. In 20 minutes he took nine shots, hitting three for nine points. He didn't record any other stat but three fouls in his time on the floor, and was a -21 as the Raptors rode away with the win in the fourth quarter. But we're putting him here because there's a chance he can make the Bulls' roster, especially with LaVine out and Zipser potentially needing to miss time.