At last check, Luol Deng was alive and well in Cleveland.
He’s upright, walking and actually breathing.
That bit of news seems to have eluded his former teammates, despite it now being four days since he was traded to the Cavaliers for 12 hours of Andrew Bynum’s contract, three draft picks, financial flexibility, and a whole lot of hope.
“It’s still strange not having him around,” veteran guard Kirk Hinrich said of Deng after the Thursday practice at the Berto Center. “Just coming in today, his locker is next to me here. I had a lot more room today but it was a little just getting nostalgic just looking at it seeing it empty for the first time here.
“Shoot, I have played with Lu for nine years so we kind of grew up as players and young men together. We miss him as a team and miss him as a person. He’s a great guy, but at the same time we’re trying not to dwell on it. We have a job to do, we’re trying to move forward and we’re trying to build some momentum here to dig our way out of the hole we have already dug for ourselves.”
They are trying.
It just might not be working for all of them.
Joakim Noah was still not talking to the media, with the latest excuse being the All-Star center was a bit under the weather.
That’s a flat-out no, one politely declined and an under the weather so far for Noah and interviews since Deng was shipped out.
“Jo’s an emotional guy,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He got himself ready to play [in Tuesday’s win over Phoenix]. He’s playing at a high level. He played a great game. Now the challenge is to come back after you have a good game to play another good game. You can’t feel good about yourself. You have to be ready for the next one.
“Jo has been around. He can handle things. Luol is not the first player that was ever traded from the Chicago Bulls. The same thing when we get a new player, we always embrace whoever that new player is. That’s the way it is. We just focus on our team and improvement.”
But there’s another focus that could be creeping into the locker room picture, and that’s which player, if any, could be next to go?
First there’s Carlos Boozer. With Deng gone, the Bulls amnestying Boozer’s contract this offseason looks like a forgone conclusion.
“I’m sure I’ll talk to them if I need to,” Boozer said, referring to the front office. “They’ll talk to me, but that’s something you have to talk to them about.”
And then there’s Hinrich, who is being looked at by several teams as a veteran that can come in and offer up back-up point guard play.
“I think it’s always a possibility,’’ Hinrich said.