Yes, Luol Deng plays a lot of minutes. A lot. He went into Friday's game at Boston averaging 39.0 minutes a night, which was fourth in the league behind Monta Ellis, Eric Gordon and Kevin Love. And Gordon has only played in two games this season.
At 26 years old, Deng is just coming into his prime as a player- and one would assume as an athlete- so he certainly should be able to handle playing 39 minutes a night.
Just to kind of put things in perspective, at age 26 Scottie Pippen played 38.6 minutes per game, and MJ played (ironically enough) exactly 39 minutes a night when he was 26.
If you are over 40 like I am, you certainly know that back 20 years ago, the NBA was much more physical that it is today. MJ and Pip got beat up a hell of a lot more than Deng does, and they didn't fade down the stretch of games, or in the playoffs.
So why are so many fans- and some members of the media- making such a big deal out of how many minutes Luol is playing each night? One of the common reasons that I read is this season is condensed due to the lockout and teams are playing games a lot more frequently.
And yes, that is technically true- but if you look at the actual number of games per week or month compared to prior season, you easily see what a strawman this argument is.
This season, the Bulls are playing 66 games in a regular season that lasts 124 days. A little bit of simple math tells you that the Bulls are playing 3.726 games per week on average.
Last season, the Bulls played 82 games in 167 days, which comes out to 3.437 games per week.
So compared to last season, the Bulls are playing .289 more games each week than they did last season. That's one extra game every 3.46 weeks, or 1.26 more games a month.
I'm pretty sure that if you ask the players, they would tell you that playing one extra game every three and a half weeks isn't much of hardship, if any.
Maybe if Deng were struggling down the stretch of games, I might see his minutes as a concern. But according to 82games.com, Luol is playing better late in close games.
The guys at 82games.com consider "clutch time" to be the last five minutes of the 4th quarter and/or overtime with neither team having more than a five point lead.
While it's still early in the season, so far this year in the clutch Luol hasn't missed a FGA, and his 77.8% success rate on free throws is higher than his percentage on the season as a whole.
Rose admitted that he was worn out last season by the end of the Heat series, but I attribute that to Rose playing more games last season than he'd ever played in his life. He didn't play any more minutes than LeBron last year, and LBJ certainly looked fresh late in games against the Bulls during that series.