RIO DE JANEIRO -- By his estimation, Luol Deng visited "15 or 16 countries" this offseason.
That's a typical summer for the worldly Deng, whose philanthropic efforts via the Luol Deng Foundation have spread beyond his native Sudan and the United Kingdom, which granted his family political asylum.
When it ended, Deng returned to the only organization and city he has known throughout his professional career. And this season will mark a milestone for the two-time All-Star, his 10th with the Bulls.
Only Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Jerry Sloan and Tom Boerwinkle have played a decade or more for the Bulls. And if that's not the Mt. Rushmore of franchise history, it at least has some of the faces.
"When you talk about how international I am, I've never lived anyplace more than five years but Chicago," Deng said in a private moment after practice Thursday in Rio de Janeiro, where the Bulls are to play the Wizards on Saturday in an exhibition as part of the NBA's Global Games initiative. "It has become home."
This is partly why Deng's disappointment over the medical fallout from his spinal tap and lack of a contract extension this offseason rang so true. Deng has said he will explore free agency this summer. But if he ends up leaving, he will do so with a treasure chest full of memories.
"Growing up, I never thought I'd play in the NBA, yet alone be with such a historic organization for so long," Deng said. "It seems like yesterday that I was drafted. I'm only 28. I pretty much grew up inside this organization. I came in as a young kid, had a lot to learn being a high pick. There have been a lot of ups and downs along the way but a lot of great times."
Deng said on the eve of training camp that he wouldn't discuss his contract situation this season. And anyone who has witnessed Deng handle other issues during his career -- the 2009 tibial stress fracture that many questioned comes to mind -- knows he responds to adversity with aplomb.
It's why Deng is respected throughout the organization. Even general manager Gar Forman, who opted to see what this summer's market bears for Deng, praises him consistently. It's a business, after all. Both sides understand that.
"Lu and I have a lot of history together," said Kirk Hinrich, who arrived the season before Deng. "We kind of grew up as players together in this league. I'm so happy for the success that he has had. It's so well deserved.
"Lu is one of those glue guys every team needs. He's so consistent. His effort is always there. I really enjoy being his teammate."
In 2004-05, Deng's rookie season and his and Hinrich's first shared season together, the Bulls started 0-9 under Scott Skiles.
"I remember that," Hinrich said with a laugh. "Then I remember winning at Utah (to avoid a franchise-worst 0-10 start) and eventually having home-court (advantage) in the playoffs. When you think about that, it's pretty incredible, especially for how young of a team we were.
"Stuff like that is why I'm so happy for the career Lu has had and the way he has grown as a player and to be a very small part of that."
Coach Tom Thibodeau should carry a Thesaurus dog-eared to the page for the word "awesome" given how vehemently he compliments Deng when asked. Under Thibodeau, coaches have voted Deng an All-Star reserve in back-to-back seasons and he regularly ranks among the league's leaders in minutes per game.
"Luol is Luol," Thibodeau said. "You get maximum effort and concentration each and every day. He's a great leader, not a big talker. But you watch his actions. He prepares himself extremely well in the offseason. He comes into camp in great shape, prepares himself to play big minutes. He doesn't like to take any practice or game off.
"Whatever you ask him to do, he's going to do it."
And now, for the 10th straight season, Deng will perform those tasks for the only professional franchise he has known.
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