Updates from Deng's Former Teammates

Sam Smith Catches Up With Joakim Noah, Ben Gordon & Others
by Sam Smith
Remind Me Later

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Bulls fans got to say thanks and offer a bon voyage Wednesday to longtime Bulls forward Luol Deng on his retirement. Deng met with reporters before the game against the Detroit Pistons and then shared a suite during the game with several former teammates and friends. He received a standing ovation early in the second quarter after a video display of career highlights. Longtime Bulls security chief Eric Buck came up from his Florida retirement home and longtime trainer Fred Tedeschi came from Oregon State and Corvallis, where he is director of athletic training.

Here's an update on Deng's former teammates/guests who were in attendance:

Joakim Noah:

"I had an unfortunate situation happen with my Achilles, so I'm just trying to stay in shape the best way I can, doing the training I can, shooting. I got engaged this summer and am spending time with my family. I have a lot to be grateful for. For sure I'm going to try to play again. I love the game. Like last year (with Memphis), I was able to get my confidence back. I was excited for a new opportunity; unfortunately things happen in life. It happened the day before the workout with the Clippers. It's unfortunate, but hopefully I can come back from this. If I can I will be back out there.

"I'm so happy Luol is able to come back here and end it the way he wanted. Even though this is a business and sometimes things end in ways that's not pretty, it's a blessing to be able to play basketball at this level and to be able to share this moment with somebody who gave so much to this organization. This is my brother. We came up together. When I first got here, the first day Luol was teaching me the ropes. For him to be here and put the bad things to the side and appreciate the brotherhood and special moments, that's what it's all about. I'm just happy we can share this moment together. I don't look too far ahead, but I cherish coming back here and cherish Chicago and cherish this organization and you realize at the end of the day what we shared together was special."

Noah wearing a Bulls jersey

Ben Gordon:

"I do a lot of traveling, New York, California, Chicago a lot. I work with younger athletes; not a business, but as a mentor. I keep myself busy being in the gym, sharing advice on the game. I'm going back to school in real estate. I'm being productive with my time. I had one word for that group (with Deng). I'd say resilient because we started off 0-9 that year. I did feel the organization was a little impatient with us; I felt we had the makings of a great team, but couldn't keep it together. The whole Baby Bulls thing, we were like a new developmental team. I was definitely proud of myself playing winning basketball. Not winning a championship, but getting a championship organization back into playoff contention was big. Before that the Bulls weren't that good, so that 0-9 start to the season was like the last part of that former team and we didn't let it sink the season and turned it around and started something new.

"It was a tough start for me that season, a lot of adversity. I really didn't understand how a No. 3 pick comes off the bench. I had adversity with my playing time in my career. But it forced me to become more efficient and aggressive. Now I look at the game today and think about the leash I had on me with some of the shots I was taking and look at some of shots guys are shooting now. I remember them telling me to work on your shot selection. It is hard watching the game now with the threes they shoot. But I am content with my career and all I learned about myself. It's always great being back here. You can tell it's a real family atmosphere. Luol, I don't know if he left on great terms, but he was welcomed back to finish his career the way he wanted to."

Ben Gordon

Tyrus Thomas:

"I've just been back coaching in Baton Rouge, coaching and mentoring kids. I'm back in school now, psychology and general studies. I want to coach at the college level. I'm doing some coaching in high school now. I'm mentoring kids with childhood traumas. It's a lot I realized about myself when I finished playing basketball (in Germany in 2015) that if I knew more about myself, things probably would have been different. Just helping kids understand themselves better, especially kids who come from the background I came from. My organization, Uncommon Forum, we work with the Baton Rouge Youth Coalition. My main mission is to basically help people to the proper counseling. It may be you need professional counseling where you may need to be medicated or you may just need mentoring or someone who understands what you are going through for therapeutic counseling. Once I realized the things I was dealing with, it became one of those things I got passionate about. Even with me when I look back on my career, there were a lot of things I was dealing with internally I didn't know how to articulate or address and it came out in different ways. If I can help kids now, especially because I went through it, you can see your choices and decisions and understand why you make those. Help kids have the power to dictate the way they live. It's a passion for me."

Ben Gordon

Aaron Gray:

"I am raising three kids. My wife and I have a five, three and one year old. We're living in the Detroit area. We own some businesses together. We have a gym, a flotation therapy called Motor City Flow. We just invested in cryotherapy. It's something I also did when I had my heart attack (in 2014) and things I did to cope with the health and being out of the game. I had a blood clot from my leg go up to my heart; that ended my career. I coached with Stan Van Gundy for four years and now I do business stuff and raise my little ones and am having a blast. My health is good, my mind is great, my spirit is good. Life is good. I've got no complaints."

Aaron Gray playing for the Bulls

John Lucas III

"I started my own company, JL3 Basketball, player development. I worked with Derrick in the summer, Russ, James, and a lot of high school and middle schools. I'm in LA now. My wife is a script writer, so we moved out of there for her job. I have JL3 Elite, my AAU program. I'm not associated with an NBA team now, so I'm thinking about coaching my AAU team. My goal is to be a head coach in this league. I've talked to a lot of coaches and they say to keep working on your craft like you did as a player and know the upcoming players. I've been tapping into incoming player development because eventually when I have an opportunity, I will have a relationship with some of the players. It's also fun because kids want to learn. Teach the right way of playing and become a mentor and counselor. After everything in my story and what I went through at Baylor and turning that into a positive and the Final Four and being undrafted and staying with it and going overseas and the G-league, that even if you're not drafted there is an opportunity and you'll enjoy your journey and appreciate it so much more."

John Lucas III playing for the Bulls

Jannero Pargo

"I'm an assistant coach with the Portland Trailblazers. I stopped playing and took a job with the Windy City Bulls, coached two seasons for them and it was great. My one goal, my dream is to be a head coach in the NBA. I'm working with Terry Stotts now and he is very open, you see something you say something whether you are lead assistant or not. With my background, I feel I can relate to every player on my team, high scorer, role players, playing with stars, working in the G-league."

Jannero Pargo playing for the Bulls

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