Opening Comments from Luol Deng:
As a team we're having a great season. We wanted to get the 50 wins but we came up a little short. Our first Playoff opponent was the Miami Heat. They were the champs and we did a good job of eliminating them. As a team right now we're just preparing for Saturday's game against Detroit.
Your game seems to have gone onto a new level particularly during the second half of the season, do you attribute that to getting more comfortable with the league or did you decide at one point to just become much more assertive out there on the floor?
I definitely got a lot more comfortable with the NBA system and the game was slowing down for me but I think I just stayed with the same routine. Being in my third year I knew how long the season is and just did a good job of taking care of my body and staying with my work ethic of working on my game everyday.
Did the fact that there was some talk of you being traded, spur you maybe to prove a point?
No that never affected me. There was a lot of talk about me being traded but I never really thought that I was actually going to be traded. For some reason I just didn't let that bother me and just kept playing my game. It didn't happen and I'm just happy that I'm still here.
Could you tell us more about the Sportsmanship of the Year award that you received today - was that for particular feats on the court or was it for work that you've done off the court?
The Sportsmanship award is an award for on the court and off the court. It's for being a sportsman on the court but also doing stuff with the community off the court. It's an honor to get this award but it's not really about the award. I think I've just been blessed to be the person that I am just being me out there when I'm on the court or off the court, and just being the person that I always wanted to be and I really appreciate the recognition.
Can you expand on what sort of work you do in the community?
I have my own charity, the Luol Deng Foundation and I help other charities do things with the World Food Program and I do stuff here with the homeless shelter where I hold Thanksgiving. I also do stuff with kids here in Chicago and try and do stuff in the Sudan. I just opened up a learning center here in Chicago for the kids here that are not fortunate enough to be provided with the equipment needed for school.
Looking ahead to the Playoff series against Detroit, does it matter that you won three of the four meetings against Detroit this season? Is that something that you think about or does that not matter anymore?
When it comes to the Playoffs I think that doesn't matter. I think the match up went out in our favor but I think that Detroit could say a lot that they didn't have everybody healthy and things like that, but you know they have the better record in the season and I think that's what really counts and that's why they have home court advantage. So when it comes to the Playoffs I think everybody raises their level of game to a different height so I don't think we should go into the Playoffs thinking we beat them 3 out of 4.
Ben is very mellow. He's really a quiet guy. I think we know even the last series he raised his level and just focused his intensity and we expect him to do the same thing. Ben isn't the guy that is going to talk a lot, talk about his ex-players or what they do, or what they can't do. I just think he's going to go out there and show by example.
You're getting noticed as a top NBA player now. How much better do you think you can be? What are you trying to improve in your own game?
I love playing this game and I'm going to keep working on it. I believe that there is a lot for me to improve on and I think that I have got to get a lot stronger and I think that I can do that in the off season. I have to work on my ball handling and things like that. There are so many things in the game that you can improve on. I think that I have improved a lot in the last 2 years but I just believe that there is room for improvement. I have a large gap to fill in.
This week you've swept the Heat, won the Sportsmanship award and you've been called up for the GB (Great Britain) squad for the first time. Has there been a better week for you in your career?
It's just been amazing. Everything is happening. The main thing is to stay focused. It's been an amazing week. The highlight really was advancing to the second round and I'm really excited about the GB team, just the chance that I'm going to be playing for GB but also playing with guys that I grew up with. Some of the guys in the team are guys that I grew up watching. I traveled for miles to watch some of those guys play when I was younger and now I get a chance to play with some of them, so I'm really excited.
Do you feel like you have the support of the British public behind you in this Playoff Series?
I think I do. I feel like I do. I have a lot of friends in England telling me that Game 2 was on TV. I got a lot of phone calls back home from my friends and people that saw me told me how many people were watching the game. So I really believe that I do have the support and I really believe that basketball is really going to move forward from now on.
How hopeful are you of basketball as a sports profile being raised back home in England by your successes out there?
I really want basketball to have a lot more attention. I just really believe that there are a lot of young kids who love the sport and a lot of players that really work hard at it and I think the recognition will come. More recognition will help more kids to stick with the game because it is very popular at a young age in the UK so hopefully the attention will rise and a lot of these kids will stay with it for longer.
How would you compare the lifestyle for an NBA player to that of a premiership footballer back in England?
It's really similar. I think a football player over there is recognized everywhere they go and basketball here is at that level. So there are a lot of similarities.
Going back to the GB team this summer Chris Finch has talked a lot about how he sees you taking a variety of roles and playing a line-up where there's no real fixed position. Do you think there will be a lot of pressure on you to lead that team given that you're coming in a fresh and coming off a great NBA season?
I don' t mind. I think we are going to do well. I think we have a group of guys that are going to play hard and play hard as a team. My main thing is that I work hard and I'm going to play hard when I play for GB. There is also going to be a lot of excitement and I think that takes away from the pressure. I think we've just got to go out there play hard and have some fun and everything will take care of itself. I can't go into it thinking I got to do this, I got to do that, because I am playing with good players. Guys that can get the job done.
What do you think that you can take from the Bulls and bring to the GB team to make it better?
I think after having the season that's going on I've learnt a lot. I think the main thing going into the GB team is just being focused. With 82 games and as long as our season is I think it takes a lot of focus and that's one thing I'm going to preach a lot. I think no matter if it's our first game or our last game, our first quarter, first half or second half, the main thing is really going to be to stay focused and get the job done.
What advice to you have for David Beckham in moving to America as a British sports star? Things like trying to find British football (soccer) games on American TV, trying to get a decent cup of tea, handling the US media. What advice do you have for David?
I think that a player of David's profile has seen it all and I don't think that the lifestyle is going to switch much except I think here everybody is really waiting for his arrival and you know there is going to be a lot of eyes on him. He is going to see himself on TV everyday whether he does good or bad and you know he's going to be out there which is really similar but you know there is going to be a lot more attention on football over here than there was before.
Playing for the Chicago Bulls with their great history, is there that aura surrounding the team with the history of Michael Jordan. Do you feel that playing for them?
We feel that from the fans. The fans here in Chicago are real accustomed to winning. I think the last years here in Chicago have been a disappointment till maybe since I came in, me and Ben Gordon, Duhon and Nooch. Three years ago we've kind of been shifted to Playoff runs every year but I don't think we go out there and have that in our minds. We know that we are a different team, The Chicago team was a special team and they did what they had to do. This is a different group of guys and we are really trying to achieve something for us.
I'm led to believe you are a big Arsenal fan (English soccer team). I was just wondering if you were still following the fortunes of Arsenal and what you think at the moment?
I think it hasn't been the greatest year and I think that they kind of took a step back but they rebuilt so next year hopefully they will come back stronger and try to finish up the end of the Premier League strong.
Just going back to David Beckham you were saying that everyone is waiting for his arrival is that your team mates, is it people that you talk to like your fans. Who are talking about it. Is it everywhere?
It's everywhere on TV. It's on ESPN and I think even now the league here just started, you kind of see a game here every now and then on TV and the announcers will mention it. I have friends that don't even watch football that are asking me about Beckham so I think that the purpose, and what's trying to be done here by bringing Beckham over, I think it's starting to work. When Beckham arrives here and does what he does I definitely think there will be attention and highlights on TV and it's going to be the talk.
Do you think that as someone from Britain as well that that will bring even more focus on yourself as another person from Britain over in the US playing at a high level?
I really don't know, I have no idea if the comparison will ever come up or if they will mention it. I wouldn't mind being involved in that but I really don't know because when the football season is going on I think our season is done or is about to be done so I don't think they overlap that much.
What do you think about the growth of basketball in Europe and in the UK in particular with events such as NBA Europe Live coming up in London in October where there's going to be Boston against Minnesota?
I think that's going to be great. I'm really happy. I wish it was the Bulls but I'm really excited that the two teams are going to London and just that basketball fans in London and also non basketball fans will get to watch some of the best athletes perform and I think that brings a bigger appreciation to the game. Just basketball in Europe is moving up. I think there are a lot of players now coming into the NBA because of the European style and I really believe that London has a lot of talent and in the future London will have a lot more than 2 or 3 players in the NBA. I think that as basketball grows in London this is going to be something that we are going to get used to, seeing more players from England in the NBA.
Would your dream one day be to play with the Bulls for your home fans in London?
This has been an amazing year for me and I think that if the Bulls were going to London to play in London I think it would have been even more amazing. But everything doesn't happen all at once but with all this success right now it would have just been amazing.
Just given the way you reached the NBA from the Sudan via London, how often do you think about that background and that past when you take the court and how unique the kind of route to the NBA has been for you?
I think the route that I took is something that I think about every day. It defines who I am. It's a chapter that I just can't take out of my life. Just being mature about different cultures, being born in Africa, growing up in Europe in England means that I can relate to a lot of people and believe it brings that maturity to me.
Just talking about your background, it's interesting that you're now committed to playing for Great Britain. Was there ever any doubt in your mind that it was Great Britain that you wanted to play for?
No never. When I was younger I played for the England team a number of times. When I was 16, I was called up to play for the England team but I just couldn't because I had other commitments and I was getting ready for college. Since I've started playing basketball in England it's always been a dream of mine and I still can't wait for the day that I put on the jersey. It's going to mean a lot to me.