Deng file: An in-depth look at the Cavs’ new All-Star
INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — Luol Deng is a two-time All-Star and the new Cavaliers starting small forward. Well, Deng "most likely" will start Friday’s game at Utah, according to coach Mike Brown.
The game is the first of the Cavs’ longest trip of the season. They follow Utah with visits to Sacramento (Sunday), the Los Angeles Lakers (Tuesday), Portland (Wednesday) and Denver (Friday, Jan. 17).
So the Deng era in Cleveland starts out West. Here are some other things to know about the Cavs’ new No. 9:
— Deng spent the first nine years of his career in Chicago. He was actually drafted by Phoenix (2004, No. 7 overall) but immediately traded. The Suns are probably regretting that one, because they basically got nothing in return. Anyway, Deng comes to Cleveland with career averages of 16.1 points on 46 percent shooting, and 6.4 rebounds.
— Deng is widely considered one of the best two-way players in the game. He is very efficient offensively and one of the NBA’s best wing defenders. It’s like performing well as both a receiver and cornerback in football. It happens, but it’s rare.
— He appeared in 23 games (all starts) for the Bulls this season, compiling a career-high 19.0 points per game on 45 percent shooting. He also grabbed 6.9 rebounds and passed for 3.7 assists. He has scored at least 20 points 10 times this season. His season-high is 37, which he erupted for in triple overtime vs. New Orleans on Dec. 2.
— A few days before that, Deng tied his career high with 11 assists vs. (you guessed it) the Cavs.
— He has missed nine games with a sore Achilles. The injury seems to be an on-again-off-again deal that right now is mostly off. In other words, the Achilles may bother Deng, but he’s not saying anything about it — and he played at least 29 minutes in each of the Bulls’ previous three games leading into the trade with Cleveland.
— Deng has worn No. 9 his entire career. It means something to him because he’s one of nine children. Cavs rookie guard Matthew Dellavedova wore the number all season. He and Deng discussed it, and Dellavedova willingly and politely surrendered it. Dellavedova will now wear No. 8.
— Dellavedova on the switch: "After practice, I gave it to him. He said it was up to me. He said he could pick up another number. He was really nice about it. He’s a really nice guy. He didn’t say it was because of his mom or anything like that. He said he was going to give me something, but I said that was OK (not necessary). I’m just looking forward to playing with him."
— Deng’s contract expires at the end of the season. It was one of the things that led to the Bulls’ decision to trade him. So was the fact the Bulls aren’t really going anywhere with point guard Derrick Rose out for the season again. Deng was asked if he’ll be with the Cavs for the long haul. "I hope so," he said.
— The Cavs can offer Deng an extension up to three years before the NBA free-agency period begins July 1. They can offer him five years after that. They can pay him more than anybody. But if things go well enough, Deng will be recruited hard. The Cavs actually hope that’s the case, because that means he’s been great for them.
— The Cavs already made both trips to Chicago for the season. They play the Bulls just once more — Jan. 22 at Quicken Loans Arena. Good sign: Deng scored 27 points and passed for those 11 assists in his one visit to The Q this season.
— Deng on what it will be like to face the Bulls for the first time: "I don’t know yet. It’s (in Cleveland), so it’s definitely different. It’ll be the first time playing against my teammates, but also the organization where I’ve been nine years. I will know when the time comes. Until that day, I’ll just focus on what I’ve got to do each and every day while I’m here. When that day comes, I’ll know."
— Deng was a member of the Great Britain national team in the 2012 Olympics. He is a member of the Dinka tribe, which produces many of the world’s tallest people. His father, Aldo, served in the Sudanese parliament and became Sudan’s Minister of Transportation before moving to Egypt to avoid Sudan’s civil war. Deng’s brother, Ajou, played college basketball at Fairfield and Connecticut. His sister, Arek, played at Delaware.