Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau told ESPN Radio on Friday that he believes Luol Deng won't need surgery to repair the torn ligaments in his left wrist and that he expects his do-it-all small forward to report to training camp on time and ready to go. Because of course he does.
Deng said months ago that he wasn't sure if he'd need the surgery, despite the pesky fact that his wrist won't heal fully until he has it. I'm not surprised by Thibodeau's spin when the coach says: "The way it is right now, he's going to play in those (Olympic) games, he's going to come back and continue his training. He said his wrist is feeling a lot better."
More than anything, this reeks of the Bulls penalizing Deng for his decision to represent Great Britain in the Olympics. The Bulls aren't out of line to suggest Deng -- their very important and highly paid second All-Star -- put his employer before his adopted country, though given everything the small forward has done for the team in recent years, I'd wish they'd be more forgiving of his preferences.
The simple fact of the matter is that the Bulls need Luol Deng, especially with superstar Derrick Rose out for most of next season. Conversely, Deng won't be right until he has the surgery, which would sideline him until at least January.
I say he should have the procedure. The first two months of Bulls' basketball in 2012-2013 won't be fun without Deng, but oh well. This is shaping up to be a lost season regardless. Give me a healthy Deng for the majority of the season over one playing through pain for 40 minutes a night over the entirety of it. Plus, if the Bulls are serious about moving Deng to create salary cap flexibility, it's better that he doesn't put off surgery for another season. It'll only hurt his value.
I'm with Thibs, though: I bet Deng will put off surgery and be in the starting lineup on opening night. This is because Luol Deng does whatever the Bulls ask him, aside from the Olympic debacle which clearly means a lot to the small forward.
Thibodeau needs to loosen up. As has been proven without a doubt over the first two seasons of his ultra successful reign, not every regular season game matters. There are long term concerns here, and those should take precedence over the coach's insistence to go pedal-to-the-medal every night of an 82-game campaign.
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