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updated: 1/24/2012 6:56 PM

Bulls losing Deng akin to dynasty Bulls losing Pippen

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Just think what the Bulls' dynasty teams would have been like without Scottie Pippen.

Now translate that into what the current Bulls' championship aspirations would be without Luol Deng.

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This reminds me of that because in many ways Deng reminds me of Pippen.

Deng has a torn ligament in his left wrist. He'll be lost to the Bulls for a while. Day-to-day is now weak-to-weak, uh, make that week-to-week.

Deng won't have surgery yet but instead hopes to come back sooner than later and try to play through the pain.

"I really feel we have a real good chance of doing something special," Deng said to explain why he is delaying surgery.

Bulls' coach Tom Thibodeau's mantra is, "No matter who's out, we have more than enough to win."

Maybe so, but not having Derrick Rose against the NBA's better teams would make it hard for the Bulls to survive. Deng isn't Rose, but not having him against those teams also would make it hard for the Bulls to survive.

Allow me to state the obvious: Luol Deng is really good. How good? Well, every time Thibodeau talks about him it sounds to me like he's describing Scottie Pippen.

Deng isn't Pippen -- the former Bull who is in the Hall of Fame -- any more than Rose is Michael Jordan -- the former Bull who is the best basketball player ever.

But as Thibodeau says, Deng is the Bulls' "glue." He has become as worthy a complement to Rose as Pippen was to Jordan.

Thibodeau lauds Deng's defensive ability, length, willingness to sacrifice his body, rebounding, professionalism and work ethic.

Aren't all of those attributes that Pippen was credited with? Didn't he fill in all the Bulls' gaps? Wasn't he a player teammates respected for the way he endured his status behind Jordan?

Thibodeau said of Deng this week: "There's nothing that he doesn't do well."

That was Pippen, too. He didn't overwhelm in any particular statistical category -- scoring, rebounding or assists -- but he contributed in all areas to six championships.

Pippen was good enough defensively to guard the other team's best player at whatever position except maybe center.

Thibodeau has said that "in my eyes, Luol's an all-league defender. He guards everybody."

Deng's versatility was evident during his one season of college basketball at Duke. He already looked like Pippen back then, long and lean, a point forward in the making as the Blue Devils beat Illinois in the 2004 NCAA Tournament.

At 6-feet-9, Deng could go inside and rebound. He also could stand at the top of the key, look over the defense and make the appropriate pass.

It took awhile for Deng to reach that potential in the NBA. Fans and media members groused when the Bulls signed him to a big contract.

The criticism was that Deng was brittle, that he didn't play good enough defense, that he might not have the heart to mix it up in the NBA.

But this was a young man that had to flee war-torn Sudan with his family, land in England, get to prep school in New Jersey, enroll at Duke and finally wind up in Chicago.

Weak-minded people -- athletes or otherwise -- don't survive that circuitous route to the NBA and become indispensable players.

Now, while Deng's wrist has gone from day-to-day to week-to-week, the Bulls better hope it doesn't plunge to month-to-month or season-to-season.

Luol Deng is too important to the Bulls' title aspirations.

mimrem@dailyherald.com

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