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posted: 10/25/2012 6:31 PM

Deng expects to shoulder workload

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  • Steve Lundy/slundy@dailyherald.com  Chicago Bulls small forward Luol Deng reacts after getting called for a foul during game one of the Eastern Conference finals Sunday night at the United Center.

      Steve Lundy/slundy@dailyherald.com Chicago Bulls small forward Luol Deng reacts after getting called for a foul during game one of the Eastern Conference finals Sunday night at the United Center.

 

Bulls forward Luol Deng has a pretty good idea what's coming. He led the NBA in minutes per game last season at 39.4 and all signs point to a repeat ironman title.

In the past two preseason games, coach Tom Thibodeau has returned to last year's trend of leaving Deng on the floor with the second unit, while the other starters sit down and take a rest.

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"I expect to play the same," Deng said Thursday at the Berto Center. "My strength, really, since I've been in this league is conditioning. I've always been blessed to be able to play high minutes. You've just got to stay on top of the little things -- getting my treatment, stretching. Just being ready for 48 minutes a game, I really prepare myself for that."

The Bulls have been grooming second-year forward Jimmy Butler to be able to take over for Deng at times. But considering Kirk Hinrich's groin injury, Richard Hamilton's age and Marco Belinelli's poor preseason performance, Butler could be filling in at other spots. Once again, it appears the Bulls will rely heavily on Deng.

"There's times when I get tired," he said. "The (66-game) schedule last year didn't help me at all. There were days where I really felt it last year. The year before, honestly, I thought the whole year I was great. Now the schedule back to normal, I'm really happy with that.

"Also, I think, the role is different. Now I have a mindset of just every game I play as hard as I can. I'm mature enough to live with what I do in that game. I don't go into a game with a one-track mind of doing one thing. I just play hard."

Deng played many of those heavy minutes last year one-handed. He tore a ligament in his left wrist on Jan. 21, took two weeks off, then finished the season.

There was minor controversy during the summer when Deng announced he would play for Great Britain in the London Olympics. If he needed surgery to repair the wrist, it would happen after the Olympics and he would likely miss the start of this season while in recovery.

As it turned out, Deng decided not to have surgery and is having no second thoughts.

"I had my mind set on getting the surgery (at first)," he said. "As the year went on, it just felt a lot stronger. I stuck with my rehab. It's been good so far. I haven't had any pain in it."

Deng experienced the same injury to his right wrist as a rookie. That's his shooting hand, so back then, he had surgery right away and missed the 2005 playoff series against Washington.

"For some reason, maybe because it was the first time I had it, it felt a lot worse than the second time," he said. "The second time I had it, I asked the doctors a lot of questions. I never really lost any range of motion or strength. I just had pain."

So he kept playing through the summer, first training with the British squad, going through a few exhibitions, then carrying the home team through the London Games. Great Britain went 1-4, with a win over China and a narrow 1-point loss to eventual sliver medalist Spain.

Looking back, Deng can understand why people might think that schedule seems hectic. But he pointed out there was plenty of down time, especially with the Bulls going out in the first round of the playoffs.

"I had a month of doing nothing (after the playoffs)," he said. "Then I was with the (Great Britain) team training. Then when I finished with the team, I had about another month, 2 months to rest.

"I spent some time with family, spent some time in Africa, went to 8 different countries. I feel like I had a lot of time. I'm not the type of guy who would take the whole summer off. I don't think I will do it until I retire."

Extended time off would take some getting used to. It's a good thing Deng is 27 and should have plenty of years left in the NBA.

mmcgraw@dailyherald.com

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