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News » Johnson jumper completes Deng's happy homecoming

Johnson jumper completes Deng's happy homecoming

Johnson jumper completes Deng's happy homecomingLuol Deng took the microphone to address his hometown crowd and urged them to ''enjoy the game.'' Not what you would normally expect in a preseason game. But then, this was an exhibition designed to showcase Basketball -- and the NBA -- to a country that worships soccer first, second and third.

Playing before a sellout crowd of 18,689 at O2 Arena, Deng scored 18 points as the Bulls defeated the Utah Jazz 102-101. Rookie James Johnson drained a short jumper with less than one second on the clock to the delight of an audience that was largely behind the Bulls .

''It was unbelievable, seeing some of the people in the stands who helped me get to where I am in Basketball, and seeing so many Bulls jerseys,'' said Deng, who sat out the fourth quarter. ''When I was growing up I couldn't say that. It says a lot about the development of Basketball in this country.''

With Derrick Rose (ankle and Achilles) and Tyrus Thomas (hip) sitting out as a precaution, the Bulls were reduced to just 10 fit players, handing starts to Jannero Pargo, Taj Gibson and Kirk Hinrich. But it didn't keep them from shooting a healthy 61.1 percent in the first half, including 5-for-7 from three-point range. The Bulls also ran more and defended harder than they did in Friday's 104-95 win at Indiana.

''I'm most concerned about our guys playing hard and getting after it defensively,'' Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro said. ''We make too many mistakes defensively. Utah makes you work hard and I was happy the way we hung in there.''

The Bulls led 55-48 at the half and were up as much as 11 before Utah came back. The teams traded leads in the final quarter until Johnson's heroics, which earned him a group hug from his teammates.

''They didn't have to do that for me, but it makes me feel like I'm part of this family,'' said Johnson, who had 18 points and eight rebounds. ''I'm in the NBA because I can put the ball in the basket, and there's no more confidence because I made that shot. But it's just one shot, and I have to move into the next game.''

The Bulls fly home today and won't have much time to get over any jet lag ahead of Saturday's preseason game against the Milwaukee Bucks in Green Bay, Wis.

NOTES: Among the celebrities sitting courtside were soccer stars Jermaine Defoe of Tottenham Hotspur and Joe Cole of Chelsea, former WBC cruiserweight champion David Hay and music group JLS.

- NBA commissioner David Stern was in attendance in London, meeting with league sponsors and local personnel, as well as exchanging ideas with Richard Scudamore, the chief executive of soccer's English Premier League. High on the agenda was how arguably the two most popular leagues internationally are coping with the economic downturn. However, Stern insisted the NBA is in good shape heading into the season despite the credit crunch.

''We've been remarkably unaffected by it,'' Stern said. ''Our attendance will be strong again this year. Our television ratings have been up for two years and likely will rise. Our revenues will decline slightly because our teams have responded to our fans by either freezing prices or lowering them. Overall revenues will be down somewhere between 2 and 5 percent. As for the credit crunch itself, the banks have recently renewed a facility we have for over $2 billion. So we feel pretty good about our place in this difficult time.''

- The Bulls -Jazz game was officiated by a trio of replacement officials. Stern confirmed that the labor talks with the referees union remain on hold.

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: October 8, 2009


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