Chicago Bulls forward Luol Deng said Sunday he sees truth behind rumors he'll be traded this off-season, admitting that if he were in charge of the team, he would be shopping players around as well.
Rumors have swirled in recent weeks that Luol Deng may be traded in part because of his decision to play for the British national team in the Olympics this summer despite the strong opposition of Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau and general manager Gar Forman.
Luol Deng was recovering from a wrist-ligament injury for much of this past season, but he still led the NBA with 39.4 minutes per game, according to ESPN. Nonetheless, the year ended on a bad note for Chicago as Deng's co-stars, Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, both were benched with injuries during the NBA Playoffs: The Bulls lost in the first round to the Philadelphia 76ers.
As a result, Thibodeau, Forman, and other Bulls bigs had pushed publicly for Deng to forgo the London 2012 Olympics -- the first games to feature a British national team in basketball since 1948 -- and get a surgery that would help his wrist heal properly before the beginning of the 2012-13 NBA season.
Bearing in mind Great Britain took Luol Deng's family in as refugees from conflict in Sudan when he was just 10 years old, the player made it known in no uncertain terms that he had no intention of skipping the Olympics, and he is currently training with Great Britain's national team at a camp near Houston.
Because of all this turmoil and his decision to fly in the face of his bosses, the 27-year-old star seems unsure as to what his future will hold in the NBA, and he did not dismiss reports that emerged recently saying that Chicago may trade him for a top draft pick.
Luol Deng spoke with ESPN about the rumors at a Sunday practice session. I believe there is always to some extent truth behind rumors, Deng said. But as an athlete, if you get caught up in them, you are really wasting your time because it's not something you can control.
Luol Deng added: If it's not true, a GM could always come out and say it's not true. But if a GM doesn't come out and say it, there are probably talks. And there should be. If I was a GM, I would be shopping players around, too. I've got to show that I'm doing something.
Luol Deng continued: A lot of GMs don't just sit there, they're trying their options. Me, I always say there are two things when trades happen -- if I was to be let go by a team and nobody picks me up, that's probably the worst thing. But whenever you hear your name in a trade, that means there is somebody at the other end who wants you.
According to Luol Deng: As much as I want to stay on the team -- I love Chicago, I love the Bulls -- at the same time, I know the business part of it. Sooner or later, all the rumors are going to come up.
However, Luol Deng did tell ESPN that he does not believe the team is acting in response to his decision to play in the Olympics: I don't think so. Me and [coach Tom Thibodeau] have a very close relationship. I spoke to [GM] Gar [Forman], I spoke to [vice president of basketball operations John] Paxson, and it's one of those things you don't want to bring up. He's doing his job. As much as I'm playing basketball, working out, I'm doing my job. You just let it be. If it's going on, it's going on. At the end of the day, there are no hard feelings, and I'm not a 21-year-old kid who will get upset by it. I understand the game.
Luol Deng noted: I wouldn't want me to play [in the Olympics], either. Pax is an athlete, and, as an athlete who used to play, Pax understands me wanting to play. But as a GM, that's his job to try and get the team healthy and get the team ready for next year. I understand both sides to it. But it comes down to an injury that happened at the wrong time. I just try to let people know I'm going to be OK.