By Tim Baffoe-
(CBS) The love Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau has for former Bulls forward Luol Deng has never been a secret. Deng’s willingness to play shutdown defense, log ungodly minutes, and play through pain made him the prototypical Thibs player while the two were together for three-plus years before Deng was traded to Cleveland.
Well, it seems Thibs is having a pretty tough time coping with Deng’s absence. The following is a voicemail left on Deng’s phone recently. A transcript follows**.
Lu. Hey. Hey, Lu. Hey, buddy.
Um, it’s late, I know. You’re probably asleep. I don’t sleep. I can’t sleep. How can I sleep? Coach sleeps then the team sleeps. Team sleeps then the team loses. Can’t lose. Won’t lose. Damn Gar and Pax and this tanking crap.
And don’t listen to them, man. I don’t care what anyone tells you. I was not involved in the trade. I said no. I’d never trade you man. You know that. I’d never trade you. I love… your play too much. We need you. We coulda made a run. They didn’t believe us. They wanted to break us up and they did. Bastards.
I miss you. Are you happy? I hope you’re happy. I been to Cleveland, though, and that ain’t happy, man. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. And then…
Aw, damn, I spilled. Shoot, there’s ice everywhere, man. ICE!
Did you catch that game we played against Orlando the other night? It was fun. Hell of a test of mental strength, you know. Never woulda went extra time if you were with us. But instead? Triple damn OT. See I played Jimmy for 60 damn minutes. Gar musta been having a damn heart attack. “No, not my Jimmy. Give him a breather.” Yeah, well, breathe my hate.
I feel bad, though. I realized after the game while Jimmy was just sitting on the floor of the lockerroom covered in ice bags and flinching every time I walked by that I was channeling my anger into abusing him. It was like, okay, if Lu was here this would all be so much better. But Lu isn’t here, is he? And what am I going to do? Play Erik flippin’ Murphy? That’s what they’d want. But that’s not what they got no.
Instead it was like… you ever read Fight Club or see the movie about it? It’s a book, too. You kids need to read the book, too, when there’s a book, too. There’s this part where the guy is fighting Angel Face, who hasn’t done anything wrong. Loyal as hell actually. Almost annoying. That’s like Jimmy. I love Jimmy. He’s great. Jimmy’d do anything for us, you know. But I decided to take out my anger on him. Like in the book. “I wanted to destroy something beautiful.” So 60 damn minutes it was. Like I was kneeling on his chest punching him in the face. Over and over.
Ah, god, I can’t get salsa out of this tie.
I’m glad I didn’t kill him, I don’t think. I feel bad. But we won.
The team saw Major League on the plane the other day, and now they think that team is like us. Like management trading you is a way to get us to not win. Whatever. I put the kibosh on a cardboard Reinsdorf peel-away thing, though. Boozer is Roger Dorn, by the way.
But, hey, what about you? It’s, like, Cleveland. Wow. So different, right? Well, you get to play with Kyrie. That’s gotta be pretty cool and fun. Man, if we had you and Kyrie.
How’s, um, Mike Brown? I like Mike. He’s a good person. Good coach. League needs more defensive guys like the two of us. I hope he treats you right. Is he treating you right? He’s probably not treating you right. I saw you played, like, 38 minutes and 39 minutes the last two games. Ha. How’s vacation treating you? [laughing, crying] I just want you to be happy. I mean that. Do you like him? More than me?
“It’s been so lonely without you here
Like a bird without a song
Nothing can stop these lonely tears from falling
Tell me baby where did I go wrong
I could put my arms around every boy I see
But they’d only remind me of you
I went to the doctor and guess what he told me
Guess what he told me
He said girl you better try to have fun
No matter what you do
But he’s a fool
Cuz Fred cleared him
‘Cause nothing compares
Nothing compares to you”
Uh, so, um, Jo’s busted up about this. Eating ice cream like it’s his job, and that’s not just from the sticky stuff. It’s got him playing with a fire up his butt, though, man. Guy won’t let this team lose unless he’s dead.
You’re missed all around the place, man. Randy Brown almost couldn’t get in his Benny the Bull costume the other night. Sad.
Where… where’s my shoe? I can’t find… Did you take one of my shoes when you left? You can have it. I just need to know. I can’t find my shoe.
Are they, um, helping you out there with your charity, the foundation. Remind me, I have a check for you I forgot to give you before you left. And don’t just think I’m trying to buy a kid from the Sudan with a lanky frame and a bunch of hustle and the heart of a champion and the soul of a poet.
But what about a charity for the genocide of my heart, man. There’s no damn telethons or bake sales for that, I tell ya.
And what do I got? I got Marquis Teague’s weird-looking ass.
Why didn’t you take the contract offer? I know why. It was a garbage offer. But, man, you could’ve stayed. We could’ve killed this thing. Killed it to death, man. We could’ve made this thing grow together, man, I know it. I feel it in my soul.
Maybe you can come back next season, right? No, I know, we talked about this. I need to let it go. But you should never say 100 percent no. Things change. People change.
Lu. Lu? Lu. I think you hung up. You hung up.
I hate you.
I… I love you.
Call me back.
Where’s my shoe?
**If you believe this is real you should not be allowed out of the house nor near sharp objects. Because you’re stupid. Fantastically stupid. And it angers me that there are people that epically clueless out there that warrant me having to write this disclaimer.