I spoke with someone intimately familiar with Luol Deng's injury to attempt to get a better grip on how serious the injury was, how likely it was to return, why it took so long to heal, and to find out his present status.
I wasn't able to get exact information on his present status as my source didn't have that information available, but as of a few weeks ago, I was told the stress fracture wasn't healed completely, but that it could reach that point basically "anyday now". The Bulls have reported that the stress fracture is completely healed now, so I'll take them at their word that the stress fracture is finally healed.
Many fans have been concerned about the length of recovery, I was told the issue with the stress fracture was in it's location. He had the fracture in the tibia right below the knee. Deng believes he suffered the injury in a collision in early February and then continued to play on it for a couple of weeks. He initially felt it was a bone bruise that would heal up with time.
When the initial X-ray showed a stress fracture Luol had a follow up MRI which did not show a stress fracture, however, the expert I spoke with indicated that an MRI is not a good tool to show a stress fracture, and the Bulls shouldn't have doubted the injury after the X-ray. A fracture doesn't show up on an X -ray and then not really exist he claimed.
At this point, the Bulls wanted Deng to return to running and try to get into game shape, but Luol wanted to continue to have his leg looked at, hence the press release throwing him under the bus by Bulls management was released. Deng confirmed his diagnosis, and after speaking with the right experts, the Bulls were then on the same page.
I've heard information all summer (and have reported multiple tims) that Deng wasn't 100% healthy yet while management wouldn't directly say he was, implied it at every turn. Luol discussed his own health recently, and his description more closely mirrors the impressions I had of his health as well. The gap in how management has talked of Deng's health vs what my sources told me about it concern me that management was setting him up for a fall again.
At this point, I believe Deng will absolutely be ready to start the season, but I don't think he's had a productive off-season, he's spent most of it trying to heal. He's done everything he can to work on his game, but that simply hasn't been nearly as much as it would be under normal circumstances.
As for the recovery time of the injury I was told that his lengthy recovery was not at all unusual given the location of the stress fracture. It was simply in a spot that makes recovery more difficult. I'm not doctor enough to understand why that is or explain it, but am merely passing it along.
My source also confirmed that there will be future risk with Deng. Everyone hopes he's healthy, but he has a stress fracture which forms from repeated stress in an area of his body critical to what basketball player's do. He can rehab the area to build up enough muscle to help absorb the blows, but it's certainly possible this issue could come back again in the future.
At the same time, I was told that if the leg is allowed to heal completely with rest, as Luol has done, that there's typically a positive outcome, and while the odds of him getting a second stress fracture are greater than you or me, that it's likely his leg will be okay going forward.
On the option of surgery, I was also told that it would have sped up the healing process for Deng, but that surgery is never the recommended option if it can be avoided. The other issue with surgery is that when the healing process starts, it can't be certain whether surgery would have sped up the process or not, it's merely a hindsight observation at this point, but it would have given more time certainty towards the length of the process.
Luol Deng is critical to the Bulls success this season, and last January he finally put it all together in the offense and was playing at a high level. He started slowing down once he started playing on one leg. It's important to remember how effective a healthy Luol can be on the court. We should see that Luol out of the gates of this NBA season. The greater question will be for how long will see him?