Following a July widely panned as disappointing--simply based on the players that left and the low-profile acquisitions arriving in Chicago, but based more on sentiment than pragmatism--the ongoing London Olympics have already been a success for the Bulls. Team USA still has the upcoming elimination round to play and after close calls in wins over Lithuania and Argentina in pool play coming after a historic drubbing of Nigeria, the ludicrous debate about this year's squad being equal to the original Dream Team has mostly ceased, but that isn't why the spirits of those working at the Berto Center should be pleased.
Luol Deng and his Great Britain team are done playing, having not advanced to the next round of competition. The host country's hoops team ended things on a high note, beating China for its lone win Monday--its first ever in Olympic competition--but more importantly, Deng survived the Olympics without suffering further damage to the left wrist he played the majority of last season with injured.
Furthermore, the All-Star stated that he won't undergo surgery prior to training camp, something that had long been indicated, but finally puts an end to speculation that the Bulls will begin the regular season without their second-best player, in addition to Derrick Rose already being on the shelf. While Deng's one-man gang efforts ultimately didn't yield much success on the floor for the Brits, the fact that Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau's ironman of a small forward will be ready to go when the new-look team reconvenes in Deerfield has to give both the organization and its fans a sense of relief, as Deng's presence will ensure that the team remains competitive, even if outside expectations are low.
"Did I look like I needed (surgery)?" Deng said after Monday's finale for Great Britain. "I'm fine right now. I feel great...I have time to make decisions and be healthy by the time we start (training camp)."
On the court in his adopted hometown, the native of the South Sudan performed admirably for an undermanned squad that was simply outclassed by many of its opponents, though he put up respectable numbers of 15.8 points--albeit on 31 percent shooting from the field, something that can be attributed to him having to do the bulk of the ballhandling and creating shots for himself, roles he doesn't have to undertake in the NBA--6.6 rebounds and 4.6 assists through five games of the international tournament. Perhaps more significantly, he represented the country that provided his exiled family with a home as a boy in dignified fashion, displaying pride for just being able to take part in the once-in-a-lifetime event.
"If the Olympics were next month, I'd play again," he told reporters in London. "This is something no one will ever take away. I'm always going to remember this moment, walking out for the opening ceremonies and playing with guys I played with my whole life.
"It's one of those stories, if I missed the Olympics, I'd always think about that," continued Deng, whose perception has changed from a player many took for granted into a gutsy, tough-minded, all-around player who steps up in big moments. "It would have been easy to say I don't want to play. But I feel I made the right decision."
Deng cited his belief that basketball will grow in Great Britain, as well as the presence of children in the soccer-crazed country watching the sport as motivating factors. However, he didn't need to explain.
The debt of gratitude he feels for London taking in his family has been repaid and not just because of highlights that included a narrow loss to Spain, one of the favorites to win a medal. Now, it's time for anyone who questioned his commitment to the Bulls--a ridiculous assertion because of not only his devotion to playing ambassador in London, but playing with the wrist injury for the bulk of last season--to put that absurd storyline to bed, too.
If Rose were playing in the Olympics--even before his devastating ACL tear, it would have been prudent for him to skip London, as some of his superstar peers chose to do for medical reasons, just because of the wear and tear he suffered prior to the fateful opening game of the playoffs at the United Center--Deng's situation would never have had the same spotlight on it, if we're being truthful. In this controversy-driven society, there's no longer a bone to pick, at least not in Chicago, unless locals want to take umbrage with USA Basketball head coach and Windy City native Mike Kryzewski's usage of rookie Anthony Davis, a South Side product, which would be a welcome change from the gloom and doom that's surrounded the Bulls since the end of April.