On Thursday night the NBA announced reserves for the 2012 NBA All-Star game, and Chicago Bulls small forward Luol Deng earned his first ever nomination. Deng will joined fellow Eastern Conference reserves Roy Hibbert, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, Chris Bosh, Deron Williams,and Andre Iguodala, and will get the opportunity to play alongside Derrick Rose (the starting point guard for the East).
Deng's production -- 16 points, 2.5 assists and 7.3 rebounds per game -- is very similar to his career numbers, but his primary role as the lead perimeter defender on one of the NBA's best defenses is where he generates the most value. Tom Thibodeau has routinely counted on Deng to play big minutes and cover the opposing team's top scoring threat, and Deng has answered the call on a nightly basis. Even with a tear in the ligaments in his left wrist, Deng has continued to play and help the team establish the best record in the Eastern Conference.
Upon receiving word that he earned his first-ever all-star bid, Deng opened up about how he had a feeling this was the year he finally broke through:
"It's a great honor," Deng said Friday. "I'm really happy. It's good to see. I don't really have the words for it, except the fact that I'm really happy. I just want to go around and thank all my teammates because I believe by the way we're playing and the record we have, that's why I'm getting the opportunity."
"You get a certain feeling that you're going to make it. I had a feeling," he said. "I don't know why. But I was still surprised to see it. You're watching [the show] and you're relieved a little bit that you made it. This year kind of felt different going into it. I think there's a few years that I watched [the show] that I thought I might get in. But this year for some reason, I thought it was going to happen."
quotes via Nick Friedell of ESPN Chicago. There has been plenty of focus in Chicago on the amount of minutes Deng and Rose have already logged in this condensed season, but both clearly deserve their spot in the All-Star game. That can only be considered a good thing.