If there was an award in the NBA for being the toughest player in the league, Chicago Bulls forward Luol Deng would undoubtedly be in consideration, if not the outright winner. The rigors that he has dealt with this season are remarkable.
This past Thursday in a game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Deng took an elbow to the mouth from Sixers center Spencer Hawes. Despite still being in pain from the incident, having trouble chewing his food comfortably and possibly needing a root canal, Deng still took the floor on Sunday against the Indiana Pacers.
Playing through that injury alone is enough to warrant some regard for his toughness, but it’s actually just the beginning. Deng has been playing through most of the season with a tightness and pain in his hamstring and with a torn ligament in his wrist. Despite this list of injuries that he’s dealing with, Deng has missed just five games this season and leads the league in minutes per game at 39.1. That’s absolutely absurd.
The admirable things that Deng has accomplished despite his injuries don’t stop with how many minutes he’s logged this season. Deng has also managed to lead the Bulls in scoring at 16.4 points per game and has also added 6.7 rebounds, three assists and 1.1 steals per game for Chicago.
Deng’s resilience this season through all of his injuries is the epitome of this season for the Bulls. They have withstood an array of injuries, most notably the still-absent Derrick Rose, and poor offensive play and have still been able to accrue the fifth-best record in the Eastern Conference at 34-25.
The Bulls will once again make the NBA Playoffs and will hopefully have Rose back by that time. The reason they will be there, though, is because of their fortitude through all the trials they’ve faced this season, following the example set by Deng.