Luol Deng Could’ve Been An All-Star Before
Almost since the season began, media in Chicago has been pining for Luol Deng to get himself elected to the All-Star team. Everybody from Sam Smith to Scottie Pippen to yours truly ran articles claiming that Deng was easily the best player on the team with Derrick Rose missing almost a third of the team’s first 35 games due to various injuries, and considering Chicago still holds the second-best record in the East, Deng certainly feels deserving.
However, because he’s so humble and down-to-earth, many assume that accolades like the All-Star game don’t really matter all that much to him. Those people, however, would be wrong.
“It’s means a lot to me that I’m here, that I was selected,” Deng told HOOPSWORLD. “It just shows that people respect your game, but I told people before that if I wasn’t here, I’m okay… I’m still going to play hard. I’m still going to work hard. I still want to be the best basketball player I can be.”
Deng has fought injuries for this year and for much of his career, but there have been times when he felt as though he was worthy of making earlier All-Star teams. He’s come close once or twice before, but his perspective on missing out is predictably mature.
“I’ve had seasons where I felt like I’ve played at an All-Star level,” he said. “I really have. There are seasons where I felt like I played as well as the guys who were in it. But you can’t really control those things. It’s a lot of guys that aren’t here that I think should be here, but at the same time you look at the guys who are here and say, ‘So who do you take out?’ Everyone deserves it.”
There are some that say Deng himself perhaps shouldn’t have made the cut this year, but Chicago’s dominance even without Derrick Rose got him recognized. His status as one of the best international players in the game didn’t hurt, either. Born in Sudan and raised in the U.K., Deng can appreciate what both underdogs and international players have to fight through to find their way to NBA’s All-Star weekend.
“This is a global sport. The game is expanding. You’re having a lot of people from different countries, different continents representing the game,” he said. “The story of Jeremy Lin, it’s really exciting for basketball. It’s someone who didn’t get a chance. The way he came into the league, to be getting an opportunity and getting all this love, it’s really exciting for the game.”
This could very well be Deng’s only shot at the All-Star game, and if it is, he just hopes he’s able to make the most of it. Maybe add a few interesting pages to the ol’ Deng Family Scapbook.
“Having this, one day when I look back, I’ll say, ‘You know what? I was an All-Star.’ But if I wasn’t here, with as hard as I work, I’d still be happy with what I put in.”
Chicago sure has been appreciative, and it was nice to see the league agree this year. Derrick Rose owns the Windy City, but Deng plays his role, too. In 2012, that role just happens to be as an All-Star.