All of you former Luol Deng haters — front and center, right now. Come on, don't be shy.

An apology and an act of contrition, please. While you're at it, an admission of worthlessness and weakness on your part wouldn't go unappreciated.

You know who you are. You're the people who once believed Deng was a huge disappointment, a soft player, a slacker and quite possibly a bad tipper. You questioned his heart, and you questioned his talent. You certainly questioned his contract.

Here's a question for you: Where are you now?

Funny, but there's no sign of you radio talk-show squawkers who wanted the Bulls to trade Deng as recently as January. There's no sign of you letter-writers, e-mailers, tweeters and water-cooler loiterers.

You went from being extremely upset with Deng in past seasons to being awfully quiet as he played well early this season to being wildly happy with him Sunday night in the Bulls' 103-82 blowout of the Miami Heat in Game??1 of the Eastern Conference finals. At the beginning of the season, when he was putting in 40 minutes a game, you stubbornly refused to give him any credit, still angry about the $71 million Bulls chief John Paxson gave him in 2008 and still frustrated by that perceived daintiness.

Through all your animosity, Deng wouldn't budge, especially not on defense. He played hard, all the time, usually to the everlasting annoyance of the other team's best player. He wasn't a great one-on-one offensive player, never has been, but if you gave him the ball off a screen where he could drive to the basket or get a jumper, he was fine.

He was, and is.

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau knew all of this when he came to town last June. But he didn't know everything about the guy he calls "a complete player.''

"I always had a lot of respect for him as a player because I felt he could do a lot of damage, particularly if you weren't paying close attention to him,'' he said. "But then after being around him and seeing how hard he works and his leadership ability, I didn't realize what a great leader he is.''

How can a rickety/fragile/pampered player be a leader? By example, that's how. Surely the former Deng haters are having a hard time grasping the concept.