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Miami Heat have officially announced the signing of GB forward Luol Deng as team President Pat Riley described the move as ‘one of the biggest in the club’s history’.
Riley told the club’s website: “Signing Luol Deng is one of the most important free agent signings that we have ever had in the history of the franchise. He is a proven All-Star and quintessential team player, both as a scorer, as well as an All-NBA defender. He brings the attitude of a warrior and competes every single night against the very, very best. We are thrilled to welcome him to the HEAT family.”
Miami have been busy re-building their squad after LeBron James chose to return to Cleveland. The club have managed to re-sign five members of last year’s roster including key stars Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. Free agents Danny Granger and Josh McRoberts have also been recruited alongside Deng.
The 29-year-old’s agent Ron Shade spoke to CSNChicago.com and explained the reasons behind his client’s decision:
“I think Miami, obviously losing probably the greatest player in the game currently, their team is going to change a bit. The comfort that he had is when we sat down with Pat Riley and since we’ve talked to him, he’s said they know Lu. They’ve played against him. They’ve seen Lu at his best moments and his worst moments, and I think they understand that while Lu isn’t going to fill in for LeBron, Lu can step in and replace some of the things that LeBron did.
“They’re not looking for Lu to be LeBron. They’re looking for Lu to be Luol in LeBron’s place and that means they know Chris (Bosh) is going to have to be better, Dwyane (Wade) is going to have to be better and Lu can be better. I think that’s the main thing that they see, that the weight is going to be evenly distributed between those three guys and looking forward to the camaraderie that they can build. The truth of the matter is, they still can be a contender in the East.”
Having turned down Chicago’s 3-year $30m offer before being traded to Cleveland, there would have been hope of earning a better deal this off-season. Atlanta amongst others were active pursuers, but Deng has the option of testing Free Agency again next year.
Shade added: “The Bulls’ offer when he was traded to Cleveland, it was a take-it-or-leave-it offer. In this situation, we still had options. Luol had choices to make. He made them. He decided this, and at the end of the day, while it’s $10 million, there’s no state income tax. So maybe you gain about a million dollars in that. But at the same time, it gives him options. He’s a free agent at the end of this year, and it gives him the opportunity to play out a year healthy, to play out a year in a situation where he can be highlighted. So what’s in the past is in the past. The Bulls’ offer is the Bulls’ offer. Whether it’s good, bad or indifferent, at that time, we didn’t feel it was the right offer to accept for Lu and right now he’s happy with the decisions that he’s made, and he knows it’s going to be great to help him further his career.”
Deng will be entering his 11th season in the NBA having made his debut for the Bulls in 2004 and he confirmed the move with a post on his Instagram account, captioning it:
“It’s official. I’m really looking forward to this new chapter with a special organization. I’m excited to have an opportunity to play here and contribute to the culture of success. Thank you to all the fans that have supported me and the new ones welcoming me to Miami.”
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