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