MIAMI -- As the Eastern Conference semifinals begin for the Bulls, a few things remain up in the air, literally.
“Still in the air. I might have a chance,” Derrick Rose said about the possibility of him playing before the team’s morning shootaround Monday at American Airlines Arena. “I’m really trying to take care of my body and get my health together.”
Although it’s a given at this point that the former league MVP won’t play in the second round or at all this season, even if the Bulls improbably get by the Heat, he was subjected to another round of questioning about his status and once again, refused to rule himself out.
“It’s the same thing. I’m used to it. I can’t get tired of it. I just know that people want to know where I’m at. I’m just trying to give them an answer,” Rose explained. “You never know. It’s been a long time since I played. I’m just really trying to be smart about the whole situation.”
Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said that both Rose and Luol Deng, who remains in Chicago, won’t play in Monday night’s Game 1 of the series.
“Day-to-day. He’s out tonight. Hopefully we’ll get him back soon,” Thibodeau said about the All-Star, noting that he was unsure of the small forward’s travel plans, though Deng was out of the hospital as of Monday morning. “He had a spinal tap. So he’s been sick. Still not feeling as well as he would like. He’s gone back to the hospital to get tested more, more treatment. I spoke to him this morning and he’s feeling a little better.”
[MORE: Deng out for Game 1; remains in Chicago]
The coach didn’t downplay Deng’s significance to the team, but insisted that the Bulls would persevere in his absence.
“Lu is a very important part of the team, sort of the glue of our team. That being said, he has missed games during the series. He missed games in the last series,” he said. “We have more than enough to get it done. That’s what we have to do.
Deng’s teammates expressed their concern about the league’s back-to-back minute’s leader.
“I hit him up but he hasn’t hit anybody up yet. I think the only person he talked to was Coach,” Rose said. “We miss him a lot. Lu is someone where we miss his scoring, his leadership, rebounding. We’re definitely going to miss him tonight. But we’re always prepared where if he’s not there, somebody has to come in and take his spot and do his job.”
Joakim Noah chimed in: “He’s been through a lot in the last couple days, just trying to call him as much as possible, be there. He’s not here right now with us. Just wish him a speedy recovery and hopefully he comes back on the court soon.”
As for the Bulls’ other ailing starter, point guard Kirk Hinrich, the veteran floor general wasn’t available for comment before shootaround, as he was receiving treatment for his left-calf injury.
“He’s doing OK. We’ll see where he is tonight,” Thibodeau said. “It’s slow, steady progress. But he’s still not there.”
Rose was asked if he felt added pressure to return because of the team’s banged-up state, not to mention where they are in the schedule.
“No, it’s no pressure at all. I haven’t had any pressure from anyone. Not in the organization, not from my teammates,” he said. “They know I’m putting everything I have on trying to come back as fast as possible; just trying to be smart with the whole situation. Just taking my time,” he said, before responding to a query about former Bulls guard and current NBA TV analyst Steve Kerr’s recent criticism of him.
“Everybody has their own opinion. His words were that he said, ‘If I’m ready.’ Right now, I’m not ready. I’m just trying to take my time and really, really be smart. It’s definitely hard. But I know this will be over with pretty soon. Who knows when it’s going to stop? But I can’t get down on myself for not playing.
“I wouldn’t say any percentage. I wish I knew. But I know I’m feeling pretty good. My spirits are up. Just happy to be here, family here, my teammates here. Just everybody that we need,” he continued, then delving into how he keeps himself occupied, other than basketball or team-related activities. “I’m watching a lot of movies. I think a Bruce Willis movie came out on the hotel TV yesterday. I watched that like twice. Just been on my computer listening to music.”