Luol Deng bid goodbye on Tuesday to the only professional team he's ever known, the Chicago Bulls. Following his trade to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Deng took to Instagram to post a message to the Chicago faithful.
You will hear a lot of can't and a lot of won't, but you give it everything you can because you believe in yourself and your teammates. You push yourself with your heart, mind and soul, and smile every night knowing you put love and passion into it. Thank you, Chicago.
Deng was drafted by Chicago with the seventh overall pick in the 2004 NBA draft at the tender age of 19. This was his 10th season with the Bulls.
The Bulls certainly got value for the pick. According to Basketball Reference, Deng ranks in the top 10 in Bulls history in the following categories:
- Total points (fourth)
- Total minutes played (fourth)
- Total rebounds (eighth)
- Total games played (fifth), total games started (third)
- Career win shares (sixth)
Deng certainly gave it all he had on the court. Coach Tom Thibodeau is famous for playing his starters huge minutes, and Deng was the poster child for Thibodeau's minutes distribution system, leading the league in minutes per game in 2011-12 and 2012-13.
In the end, Chicago might have been wise to trade Deng when they did. His willingness to play huge minutes under Thibodeau helped lead the Bulls to many wins over the years, but Deng's health might suffer the consequences in the not-too-distant future. Though he is only 28, he has played 10 tough NBA seasons, and five postseasons on top of that.
Now Chicago will likely rebuild around Derrick Rose (hopefully back at full strength next season) and Joakim Noah. But they will surely miss Deng's all-around game at the small forward position. And judging by Deng's message, he will miss his teammates as well.
So what do you think, Bulls fans? The Cavs won't play another game in Chicago this season, but should the fans give him a standing ovation when he finally plays his first game in the United Center? Should the team honor Deng when his playing days are over?
*All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.