MIAMI – Who said Tom Thibodeau was incapable of a sentimental moment?
There it was on full display Sunday, when the topic of Luol Deng – now wearing Miami Heat jersey and shorts – came up.
“I think that’s one of the great benefits that sometimes you tend to forget,’’ the Bulls coach said. “When you go through things with people, and I’m getting to be pretty old now, but I look back at all the teams I’ve been with, and sometimes when you’re going through things you don’t fully appreciate that. Then when you look back and you see those guys later, there’s great appreciation and joy seeing them.
“Lu, I can’t say enough about. He gave us everything he had each and every day.’’
Then he attempted to give it to Cleveland when he was traded from the Bulls last January, and now Miami is getting his services, after he signed with them in the offseason.
“I think it’s always going to be strange for me facing the Bulls,’’ Deng said. “Obviously because of Chicago but just the guys on the team are still really the same guys.
“When I see them, it’s friends, it’s family, it’s guys I’ve done a lot with and know a lot about me and I know a lot about them. It’s always different facing them. Basketball is just basketball. But the coaching staff . . . that’s what makes the NBA weird.’’
Besides the numbers and effort Deng left behind, he also left an impact on Jimmy Butler, who admittedly looked up to Deng as an older brother when they were teammates. That’s why Deng wasn’t surprised with Butler’s jump this season.
Nah, we all seen it,’’ Deng said. “I’m really proud of Jimmy more than anything. I knew he would get to that.
“It’s really good to see. I’m just really proud of him and how he’s playing.’’