Maybe lost amid all the Derrick Rose obsession during the preseason was the fact that Luol Deng also played very well.
While the Bulls went 8-0 in exhibition games, Deng averaged 16.4 points and 6.5 rebounds in 29 minutes per game. Add the 10 minutes per game he's likely to play in the regular season and Deng easily could top his career-best scoring average of 18.8 points per game, which he did in 2006-07.
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It wasn't necessarily hard work during the summer that made a difference for Deng. He spent most of it recovering from the ill effects of a spinal tap administered May 2.
"I didn't work out or a long time," Deng said after Friday's victory over Denver. "After my spinal tap, I was sick for a while. I just traveled. I traveled and tried to get healthy. Once the doctors cleared me to start running and everything, I got back into it.
"That was about a month before the season. That's when I started working out. Then I went to Hawaii for a little down time from all the traveling I was doing."
Deng and the Bulls offered another explanation for his strong preseason. He's a smart player who knows how to move without the ball, so the return of Rose has been a huge benefit.
"He and Derrick have a very good chemistry," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "You know you're going to get a good shot attempt on plays that involve those two."
Deng looked comfortable and confident on the floor during the preseason. He shot an even 50 percent from 3-point range (9-for-18), then smoothly attacked the basket if defenders jumped out to guard the long-range shot.
He's headed into the final year of his contract, and at this point it seems likely Deng will hit the open market next summer as a free agent.
He doesn't like to talk about his contract situation, but that's not a very good explanation for his strong play, since he didn't get much of a chance to play basketball this summer.
"I'm so happy that (Rose) is back," Deng said. "Last year was tough. It allowed me to see, not only how valuable he is, but also I had to do a lot last year. I had a good season, but I did a lot out of character.
"Now the game, the preseason so far, it's really been simple for me. Don't try to do too much. Take the shots I get. (Rose) just demands so much attention. It's good to get the eight games in with him."
Deng missed the last seven games of the playoffs because of the spinal-tap issue. After the procedure, his body leaked spinal fluid, so he basically had to cease all strenuous activity until it was naturally replenished.
In the meantime, he visited a number of spots in his native Africa and said one in particular stood out -- a basketball-oriented boarding school in Senegal called Seed Academy. Minnesota rookie Gorgui Dieng is one product of the school.
"A lot of homeless kids and kids that were displaced when they were young (attend the school)," Deng said. "They coach basketball there, but the kids stay over. They have a few kids in college now.
"I thought that was amazing what they were doing, because they have maybe 200 or something kids, orphanage kids. To see that inspired me even more just wanting to do things."