Bulls' Deng earns first NBA All-Star birth
>> Sam Smith: Luol Deng finally makes his mark
>> Scottie Pippen: Deng among elite small forwards and deserving of All-Star status
>> Also: Rose named NBA All-Star starter for second straight year
By Adam Fluck | 02.09.2012
Bulls small forward Luol Deng will join teammate Derrick Rose in Orlando for the 2012 NBA All-Star Game after being named as an Eastern Conference All-Star reserve.
The announcement was made Thursday night on TNT.
“Words can't describe how happy I am to make my first all star,” Deng said on Thursday via his Twitter account, @LuolDeng9. “Thanks to all my supporters especially the coaches who voted for me.”
In 21 games this season, Deng has posted averages of 16.0 points, a career-high 7.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.2 steals in a team-high 38.0 minutes per game.
When a left wrist injury recently sidelined him for seven games, it showed, as the Bulls went 4-3. With Deng in the lineup, Chicago is 18-3 on the season.
Deng earning All-Star status marks the first time two Bulls landed on the team since Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen did so in 1997.
The rest of the Eastern Conference reserves include Miami’s Chris Bosh, Atlanta’s Joe Johnson, Indiana’s Roy Hibbert, Boston’s Paul Pierce, New Jersey’s Deron Williams and Philadelphia’s Andre Iguodala.
Minnesota’s Kevin Love, Portland’s LaMarcus Aldridge, Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook, Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki, San Antonio’s Tony Parker, Phoenix’s Steve Nash and Memphis’ Marc Gasol were named as the Western Conference reserves.
While fan voting determined the All-Star starters, coaches from the Eastern and Western Conferences voted to select seven players for each respective squad. Two guards, two forwards, one center and two additional players regardless of their position were filled, with coaches unable to vote for their own players.
If a player is unable to participate in the All-Star Game, NBA Commissioner David Stern will select a replacement.
On Wednesday, Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen made the case for Deng to be selected.
“I don’t think Lu worries about the accolades too much,” said Pippen of Deng and an All-Star bid in a column at Bulls.com. “Just like Derrick [Rose] and everyone on this team, it’s about winning. But it still means something to a player and it’s a sense of achievement.
“Some players chase being an All-Star for years and never make it,” added Pippen. “It can be a huge obstacle that they never overcome. And in terms of the game itself, you still have to go out there and prove that you belong there with the best of the best. That’s something I have to think Lu wants to do. I’m sure he believes that he’s one of the best small forwards out there and becoming an All-Star would solidify that.”
Meanwhile, head coach Tom Thibodeau will likely become the third Bull to have involvement in the All-Star Game. If the Bulls still have the conference's best record as of Wednesday, Feb. 15, Thibodeau will serve as the Eastern Conference coach. As of Thursday’s evening, Chicago owned a two-game lead over the Miami Heat.
The 2012 NBA All-Star Game, which will air live at 7 p.m. CT on TNT and ESPN Radio in the U.S., and reach fans in more than 200 countries and territories in more than 40 languages, will be played at Amway Center in Orlando on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2012.