October 28 - Luol Deng (pictured), Britain's top player, has admitted that he is determined to prove his critics wrong and show that he is worth the multi-million dollar contract he is on with the Chicago Bulls.


The Londoner missed the end of last season with a stress fracture and was criticised in some quarters, including by some in the Bulls management who openly doubted his commitment.


So, when the NBA season opens tomorrow against San Antonio Spurs at the United Center in Chicago, he has special incentive for doing well.


Deng said: "There was no way I could have come out and said anything that would have changed anyone's mind until I play.


"That's why I'm so excited for this season. I think it will shut a lot of people up.


"I couldn't play.


"I would have been stupid if I had said, 'You know what?


"'I'm just going to lace them up [my shoes] and play.'


"I probably would have missed this year if I did.


"I was really close to having surgery for a fractured tibia, which in some cases is career-ending.


"But I didn't want to take the criticism personally.


"I tried to be smart about it, tried to be true to myself. I know how hard I worked for this game."


The injury, which coincided with the first year of a six-year $71 million (£43 million) contract, also kept Deng out of the European Championships in Poland last month, where Britain made their first appearance since 1981.


Deng believes that once he gets a series of matches under his belt he will return to his top form.


He said: "I'm a rhythm guy.


"I need my rhythm.


"When I start missing practices, it really affects my rhythm.


"Some guys are able to sit out practices and show up at game time.


"I really need to get my practice in."


In 2006-07, Deng played all 82 of the Bulls games and averaged a career-high 18.8 points and 7.1 rebounds.


In the playoffs, his numbers increased to 22.2 and 8.7.


The next year, he missed 19 games to injuries.


Last season, he missed 33 regular-season games, as well as the thrilling playoff series against the Celtics.


Deng said: "I can't describe how hard it was to sit out and watch that playoff series.


"I don't think I'll ever erase that memory until I play again and enjoy it with the guys."


Deng has tried to shrug off the hurtful words of his critics.


He said: "Those people don't know me personally.


"I just have to wait for the season.


"I'm really excited.


"I'm determined and I'm focused."



Related stories

October 2009: Deng pleased with return to action

September 2009: Deng glad to be back for new season
July 2009: Deng confirms he will miss EuroBasket
June 2009: Deng set to miss EuroBasket claim Bulls
June 2009: Luol Deng back up and running