Ex-Bull blues continue: Deng wishes he was playing
These haven't been pleasant times for recent ex-Bulls.
Joakim Noah, relegated to garbage time, took a leave of absence with the Knicks. Derrick Rose is struggling to come back from another injury in Cleveland.
And Friday at the United Center, Luol Deng stayed out of sight since he was on the inactive list for the Los Angeles Lakers. In the second year of a four-year deal, Deng is sitting out until further notice. He's appeared in just one game this season.
"I'm not playing. I'm not hurt or going through anything. It's a decision that was made," Deng said before the game. "They made it clear I'm not wanted here, obviously, so I just have to focus on what I can control.
"It's been hard. I'd love to play. I don't know if it will be here, to be honest with you. Just keep working on my game and see. Every day I work out as if I'm going to play the next day. Just have to keep doing it."
Deng, 32, was glad to reminisce about the 10 years he spent with the Bulls, from 2004-2014. With time, he said he's learned to appreciate all the coaches he had early in his career, even Vinny Del Negro. Of the top five scorers in Bulls history, only Deng doesn't have his number retired.
"No matter what I do for the rest of my career I think I'll always be a Bulls guy," he said. "I don't think there are a lot of players who can say they played in one place for that long."
Lopez battle rages on:
The sibling rivalry continued Friday, with twins Robin and Brook Lopez battling at center as the Bulls and Lakers squared off at the United Center. Earlier in the day, Robin talked about getting together with his brother Thursday night.
"My older brother and his family came over. And Brook eventually got in whenever (the Lakers) landed," Robin described. "We ordered some food. We played 'Ticket To Ride,' had the Xbox out. Ticket To Ride is a fantastic game. We played the India map. I won, in case you were wondering. I completed all my routes. I picked up extra routes."
Lopez was asked if he and Brook play as each other in NBA 2K.
"No, no, no. I play as (Houston's) Ryan Anderson a lot," Robin said. "Yeah, that's kind of a wishful feeling for me, pulling a lot of 3s. You know, doing everything on the court except driving left."
Robin outscored Brook by 10 when these teams met in Los Angeles on Nov. 21. Any weaknesses he tries to exploit in his brother's game?
"Um, just general, all-around basketball IQ," Robin said with a straight face. "Just general all-around IQ."
Ref rehab planned:
The NBA announced a five-point plan to improve referee and player relations on Friday. The Bulls haven't had many issues in that department, although Nikola Mirotic got a technical foul in the first half.
The plan is to have meetings with all 30 teams featuring head of referee operations Michelle Johnson and former ref Monty McCutchen. Also included in this initiative are added emphasis on rules interpretation and enhanced training for officials in conflict resolution.