INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — Luol Deng was surprised. His mom was shaken.
After learning he had been traded from the Chicago Bulls to Cleveland, Deng said the most difficult aspect of knowing he would no longer be playing for the Bulls after nine seasons wasn't packing his bags or saying goodbye to teammates.
The hardest part was explaining to his mom, Martha, he had to move.
"She couldn't understand why," he said. "She feels like I'm a nice guy, I get along with everybody, so I had to explain to her. She was asking me, 'Are you not playing well? What's going on?' That was the hardest part."
It's gotten a little easier.
Deng began a new chapter in his NBA career on Wednesday when he practiced with the Cavaliers for the first time. Cleveland acquired the two-time All-Star small forward Tuesday from the Bulls in exchange for center Andrew Bynum's salary cap-friendly contract and future draft picks.
Deng said he didn't see the trade coming. The 28-year-old knew a deal was always possible and an end to his run with the Bulls was inevitable, but it caught him off guard.
"I've been very lucky," he said. "Not a lot of guys can say they've been with one organization for too long. I was definitely surprised. You hear stuff, you hear rumors, but some of it's true and some of it's not. When it happened, I couldn't believe it. It took a while to hit me. But it's not like I'm stopping from playing basketball. I've been traded from one great organization to another one."
The Cavs are counting on Deng to make a difference on and off the floor. A dependable scorer, solid defender and leader, Deng brings a winning attitude to a young Cleveland team undergoing growing pains.
"He's a veteran who's still in his prime," said coach Mike Brown. "He adds to the culture of what we're trying to do here. He's definitely a two-way player that can add an amount of professionalism, a maturity, and winning ingredients to any ball club."
Brown said Deng, who averaged 19 points and 6.9 rebounds, will likely start Friday night when the Cavs open a five-game road trip in Utah. The trip will help Deng's transition.
"It's great for him to get to know us, soon and better, and for us to get to know him," Brown said. "So you couldn't ask for it to happen at a better time."
During his first interview with Cleveland media members, Deng flashed his wide smile and charmed reporters while recounting the whirlwind 36 hours since the trade was completed.