Deng signed with the Heat as a free agent this summer after spending most of his 10 seasons with the Chicago Bulls, while James decided to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers after spending his last four seasons in Miami.
"I never said, `You know what, LeBron is gone, let me try to go and be his replacement,' "' Deng said recently. "That never entered my mind at all. I thought about the organization, what's best for me and how I could be better."
Just like his new teammates, Deng wants no part of the LeBron storyline. Filling in for the four-time MVP is the least of his concerns. He's more worried about acclimating to unfamiliar faces and keeping the Heat relevant in the Eastern Conference after four consecutive NBA Finals appearances.
"I'm here, but whatever team I would have ended on, I would have just focused on being the best I could be and how I'm going to help the team," Deng said. "I'm not trying to be anybody's replacement, trying to be anybody that I'm not. I've just got to be the best Luol Deng that I've got to be."
The 29-year-old Deng averaged 16.0 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.9 assists over 63 games last season with the Bulls and Cavaliers. In addition to signing Deng, Miami also added forwards Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger, among other moves.
- Chris Johnson