DEERFIELD, Ill.—While he didn’t appear as gaunt as he did last Thursday, his first time formally addressing the media since Game 5 of the first round, Bulls All-Star small forward Luol Deng still doesn’t look like he’s anywhere close to returning to action.
“I’m okay. Just trying to get back in the rhythm of things. It’s not as bad as it was before. Just trying to practice. I did some individual work yesterday and I started throwing up a little bit. I couldn’t finish the workout. I tried to practice with the team today and the same thing. My body, my system is not reacting well to anything I’m doing right now,” Deng said after the Bulls’ practice Sunday afternoon at the Berto Center.
Deng, who said he has lost 15 pounds due to an medical ordeal that’s included the flu, a spinal tap and a blood-patch procedure, said he’s gained back two pounds and still can’t hold down solid food.
“I’m trying to. I don’t know, man. It’s been tough. I’m just trying to get back to how I do things normally. It hasn’t been that easy. It’s easier not eating solid food right now,” he said.
Deng explained that recovery times vary for patients who have undergone spinal-tap procedures, and though he would love to return to the Bulls’ lineup during the Eastern Conference semifinals, he can’t say for sure when he would be able to do so.
“I’ve been trying to read up on it and try to get info back. You hear different stuff about it. I guess everybody’s body is different. Even when you get better, I spoke to Coach a little bit. Even if I could give five or 10 minutes or whatever out there to give these guys a little break. But I can’t even get through a regular warmup,” he said.
“There’s some people that go through it and it’s worse. If you read up on spinal tap, the symptoms after are different for everybody. I definitely had something before, the flu or whatever it was. Then just because you get a spinal tap doesn’t mean that goes away. Maybe I had that and then the reaction to that. It just sucks man. I don’t know. It’s like an injury where you can just play through it and it slows you down a little bit. It’s just one of those things not even basketball-wise, just doing regular stuff is hard.”
Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau refused to completely rule out Deng’s return.
“We’ll see. We won’t know until tomorrow. Day to day. He’s a little better today than he was yesterday. Hopefully with another 24 hours he’s better,” the coach explained. “Not a whole lot. Watch film, did some stretching. We didn’t do a whole lot. Walk-through, some shooting.”
Deng declined to discuss whether he thought anything was handled wrong medically.
“I’m not here to talk about that. The main thing right now is just for me to try to get better. That’s what we’re focusing on,” he said.
His fellow injured starter, veteran point guard Kirk Hinrich, wasn’t available for comment Sunday, but could be seen running on a treadmill under the supervision of the Bulls’ training staff, in an attempt to recover from his lingering left-calf injury.
“He did some shooting, some bike. That was about it,” said Thibodeau, who termed both Deng and Hinrich “day to-day.”
The presence of the two veterans are missed by their teammates and not only because of how depleted the roster is.
“Their leadership,” All-Star center Joakim Noah said when asked what aspect of the pair the Bulls miss most. “We miss Lu and Kirk a lot. But those aren’t things we can control. Hopefully they come back as soon as possible, some back right and healthy. Everybody knows what those guys bring to the table. It’s definitely a plus.
“It is what it is. You can’t feel sorry for yourself. As a player, you can only control what you can control. That’s bringing maximum energy and do what you’ve got to do to help win the game.”
Deng attended Friday’s Game 3 loss to the Heat at the United Center, but didn’t sit on the bench, something he hopes to do in Monday’s Game 4.
“I want to be out there on the bench at least. But I’m coughing so much I don’t want to be out there the whole time coughing and not standing up,” he said. “But I’m in the United Center cheering for guys. It’s tough, man. It’s been a long season. Being there and not being out there with the guys is frustrating.”