Luol Deng stands by his former coach as Heat roll over Bulls

SHARE Luol Deng stands by his former coach as Heat roll over Bulls

The front of Luol Deng’s jersey reads ‘‘Heat,’’ but that doesn’t mean the longtime Bulls forward hasn’t been keeping an eye on his former team this season.

That includes the rumored ‘‘hot seat’’ coach Tom Thibodeau reportedly was sitting on last week.

‘‘I feel like there’s always something to write about,’’ Deng said Sunday. ‘‘To me, it’s crazy; it’s stupid. I just think that he’s one of the best coaches in the league. I really think if you get rid of someone like that, it’s going to be a lot of rebuilding coming afterward.

‘‘He just does such a good job in terms of structure and keeping everything tight. An example is how great Pau Gasol is playing. It’s also how everything is organized. It allows a player to really focus and be at his best, and everyone else in the locker room is held to a high standard to bring their best every day.

‘‘Whatever your job is, Thibs will make sure you stay focused and on top of it. So you really don’t lose focus over a long season.’’

It was quite an afternoon for Deng, who was making his first appearance at the United Center since the Bulls traded him to the Cleveland Cavaliers last January. Not only did he have 15 points and 10 rebounds in the Heat’s 96-84 victory, but he also had to deal with the emotions that 9½ seasons in a Bulls uniform gave him.

The Bulls did their part by unveiling a video tribute to Deng during a timeout in the first quarter.

‘‘It’s a class thing to do,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘He’s given our organization everything he had. He had a great run here, handled himself great. Not only a great player but a great person, and he was great in our community. And it’s the type of person that he is. I just think it’s classy, and I respect that.’’

Deng influence

Jimmy Butler has taken over the heavy-minutes burden Deng used to carry for the Bulls, and Thibodeau said Deng helped to make the transition an easy one.

‘‘Jimmy has really grown into the role that Luol had with us,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘I think Luol was instrumental in helping Jimmy’s development, and I see Jimmy doing that with our younger guys. It’s a good thing to have. That’s great leadership.’’

Be like Mike

The medical reports on Mike Dunleavy and his injured right ankle continue to be positive, but they haven’t resulted in him returning to the court. Dunleavy has missed 13 games, and the Bulls are 6-7 without him.

‘‘When he’s comfortable enough to be on the floor, then he goes,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘Mike gives you everything he has, so hopefully it will be soon. He’s just not quite right. I don’t know if it was a setback, but he’s just not comfortable enough to be in a game. He still has a soreness that we feel has to improve some.’’

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