Luol Deng realizes Bulls could trade him
HOUSTON — Luol Deng would like to stay with the Bulls.
He has made that clear several times this season and reiterated it before the Bulls’ 109-94 loss Wednesday against the Rockets, saying, “I mean, I never played for anyone else.’’
But 10 years in the NBA hardens a player. It teaches him business over heart. So if Deng wakes up this morning, gets the call that he has been traded, so be it. No hurt feelings, no surprises.
“Maybe some guys dwell on that or would be bothered by it, but, honestly, I really don’t care,’’ Deng said. “I know that I want to be here. I’ve always wanted to be here.
‘‘But I’m mature enough to understand that I can’t worry about things I can’t control. If I wake up tomorrow, they call me and they tell me otherwise, then that’s what it is. I can’t control that. That’s their job, and they’ve got to do their job. That’s a decision they have to make on what they feel is best for the team.’’
And a scenario that could become more realistic if the biggest slide of the Tom Thibodeau coaching regime continues.
It’s no longer if the Bulls will lose, but how they’ll lose and which player will be in the training room afterward. Only 3-12 over their last 15 games, the Bulls always generate more questions than answers.
One night, it’s the shooting; another night, it’s the turnovers.
“It seems like we’re always missing somebody,’’ Carlos Boozer said after the latest loss. “This is obviously one of the toughest stretches we’ve had, our group together, but we’ll fight through it.’’
But this isn’t as bad a team as the standings indicate, Deng said. He has suffered a few down years with the Bulls, and this group doesn’t fit that mold, even at 9-15.
“It’s definitely not as bad as it looks,’’ said Deng, who had 18 points.
“You’ve got a lot of different characters of guys. I know right now in this locker room that we have guys that want to win and play hard. That’s what’s frustrating. I’ve been with guys that didn’t care, just showed up, and they won. It’s really difficult.
“Our biggest thing has been in and out, where we haven’t had the consistency in terms of playing together, even in training camp. It’s about trying to get better together, as well as improve individually.’’
It’s a task they might have to take on without Deng. While a source said last week that general manager Gar Forman had not been making calls on Deng but had received some inquiries, the free agent-to-be is one of several attractive pieces that could be moved if the downward spiral continues.
The likelihood of a contract extension is almost nil with the sides $5 million to $6 million per year apart.
“The thing is, every game you play, you try to win, but you know every game you lose, you’re behind one,’’ Deng said.
Behind one and a day closer to getting that phone call.