DEERFIELD, ILL. On the night of the big “Decision” last summer, Luol Deng was at the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya with no TV, and no one was asking if LeBron James would sign with the Chicago Bulls.
Deng wasn’t paying attention to the soap opera. No one there was.
“They didn’t really care,” Deng said.
Deng will be paying close attention to James starting today, when the Bulls meet the Miami Heat in an Eastern Conference finals that could have been ripped out of a Hollywood script.
On one side is a team led by MVP Derrick Rose that stormed to the league’s best record. On the other is a squad led by a superstar trio that decided to unite in Miami after meeting with Chicago.
“Everyone has the right to make the decision that they want,” Deng said. “They got what they wanted. We’re happy with the team that we have.”
The Heat got James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in perhaps the greatest free-agent haul ever, hoping to win a championship — or five.
The Bulls wound up with one of the deepest teams after failing to reel in the “Big Three” and are back in the conference finals for the first time since Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen were completing their second championship three-peat in 1998.
But what if the Bulls had landed one or two of the “Big Three?” Chicago had a strong pitch, with one of the top young point guards in Rose and solid support like Deng and Joakim Noah.
“It was a great meeting that I had with that team and that franchise, knowing the history,” James said. “There was some great things that they said, but at the end of the day, I felt like this was the best opportunity for me to win a championship.”