Luol Deng's Time With The Wolves Was Short, But His Impact Continues To Be Felt
Luol Deng announced his retirement from the NBA on Thursday.
Deng’s career was an incredibly successful one. He played 15 seasons, made the All-Rookie Team, an All-Defensive Team and appeared in two All-Star games. Over those 15 seasons, Deng was part of seven playoff runs and averaged 14.8 points and 6.1 rebounds per contest.
He spent the last season of his career playing with the Timberwolves. Deng only played in 22 games with the Wolves, but it was what he did off the court that was so important for the team.
He was incredibly influential to rookies Josh Okogie and Keita Bates-Diop. He taught them things can change quickly in the NBA. One minute you’re out of the rotation and the next you’re in. Deng knew this from experience, going from not playing at all to playing quite a bit towards the end of the season. He taught them the importance of staying ready, even if it’s not paying off right away.
— Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) October 17, 2019
Deng was well-known among staff members of the Wolves for getting up late-night shots after games at the team’s practice facility. We’re talking like 10:30 at night. This was a guy who had nothing left to prove, but yet always acted as if he did.
“That’s probably why he was in the league that long,” Bates-Diop said. “That kind of work ethic.”
As for head coach Ryan Saunders, Deng played an instrumental part in the transition, for both Saunders and the players.
“Man, Lu is somebody, I’ll speak to what he meant to me personally in terms of stepping into a role midseason. He was another sounding board for me in a way," Saunders said. "His veteran leadership, his experience, how players respected him, and he was just always a guy who did the right things. Always kept himself ready, and he pushed the message of what the team was trying to do and what the coaches were trying to do. Whatever he decides to do after his career, he’ll be successful because guys like that always succeed.”
Deng has left a lasting impression on everyone that he crossed in the league in the most positive way. He should be proud of the way he played during his career, but it probably says more about him when you look at who he was off the court.
We wish him nothing but the best in his post-NBA career.