For more than nine seasons, Luol Deng has been putting on a Chicago Bulls jersey before the Cleveland Cavaliers acquired him late Monday for Andrew Bynum and future draft picks. On Friday night against the Utah Jazz at EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City, Deng donned a Cavaliers jersey for the first time.
Seeing a team other than the Bulls on the front of his jersey struck him as odd, but the reality began to sink in for Deng. So did the wine and gold road jersey.
"It's been so strange. Even coming in today and getting the jersey on and seeing it say 'Cavaliers,' it hit me again. But I looked in the mirror and checked the colors out and it looked pretty good," said Deng.
The new Cavaliers forward scored 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting in 21 minutes of action as Cleveland topped Utah 113-102. Cavaliers point guard and resident star Kyrie Irving already thought highly of Deng in his debut.
"He's a great player and a great person,” said Irving, who led the Cavaliers in the victory with 25 points. "He's not going to just come in and do anything out of the ordinary except play basketball and compete on both ends of the floor and that's all we need him to do."
Of course, Irving is alluding to Deng’s ability to score as well as become the defensive stopper the Cavaliers need to stymie the opposing team’s top scorer. As Deng continues to settle in and find a comfort level with his new team, his contributions will hopefully translate to more wins.
At 13-23, the Cavaliers’ record isn't all that impressive, but in the Eastern Conference, they are only a game and a half away from the eighth playoff spot. As a result, each win becomes even more crucial as they return to playoff contention in a post-LeBron James era.