As hard as was for Luol Deng to leave the Chicago Bulls, the team that drafted him and watched him grow from a raw 19-year-old to a two-time All-Star, it wasn't nearly as difficult for the 28-year-old as it was for his mother.
In his first interview as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Deng said his mom, Martha, along with the rest of his family were in Chicago from London during the holidays. So he had to explain to them in person, rather than over the phone, why we was traded from the only team he had ever played for.
"She couldn't understand why," Deng said. "She feels like I'm a nice guy, I get along with everybody. So I had to explain to her, and she was asking me, 'You're not playing well? What's going on?'"
Deng is actually playing very well -- he's averaging a career-high 19 points per game -- and the reason for the deal was mostly financial. Set to become a free agent this summer, Deng reportedly turned down a three-year, $30 million extension from the Bulls. Because it couldn't come to terms with Deng, and to clear cap space, Chicago dealt Deng to Cleveland for Andrew Bynum (who has since been waived) and several draft picks.
Sounds simple enough, but it's not hard to see how that would be a little complicated for someone who isn't so familiar with the business of the NBA.
Part of Martha's confusion may have stemmed from the fact that after a scattered childhood -- Deng and his family fled South Sudan when he was 5 years old and he spent parts of his youth in Egypt, London and the United States -- Deng had finally appeared to have a home in Chicago.
"She still doesn't understand," Deng said. "She knows I'm here now. I think at some point I'll bring her out to see everything. It will change her mindset a little bit. It's been nine years. I'm the only kid in the NBA so she doesn't know how it works. She'll be OK with it."
Deng is close to his mother and wears No. 9 as a tribute to her having nine children.
Also, Deng's cousin, Chier Ajou, a 7-foot-2 native of South Sudan, decided to transfer from Northwestern the day after the trade. Ajou wasn't getting much playing time anyway with the Wildcats, and the trade of Deng might have been enough for him to want to leave the Chicago area.