Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau stuck to the party line before Thursday night’s Game 6 against the Nets at the United Center.
“That’ll be gametime,” he said about the health of All-Star Luol Deng, top reserve Taj Gibson and point guard Nate Robinson, all of whom he professed to have flu-like symptoms. “They’re with Fred [Tedeschi, the Bulls head trainer]. Fred’s trying to do everything he can to get them out there and we’ll see.
“It’s unusual, but you can see it’s all around right now. Everyone’s feeling a little under the weather, but you just deal with it. If you want to use it as an excuse, you can and preferably, we don’t. We get out there and get the job done,” Thibodeau continued.
Robinson started in place of injured starter Kirk Hinrich and Gibson will come off the bench, but Deng won’t play in the contest after not being cleared by the Bulls’ medical staff.
The small forward was sent home before the game because of an illness that could be more severe than the common flu.
According to a person with knowledge of the situation, Deng was in a Chicago-area hospital emergency room Wednesday night and to undergo medical tests—including, the source told CSNChicago.com, a spinal tap, which drew fluid from his back and brain—to ensure that he didn’t have viral meningitis.
He doesn’t, fortunately, but Deng’s health didn’t improve by his arrival Thursday afternoon at the United Center, thus the decision to let the NBA’s back-to-back minutes-per-game leader rest and recuperate.
"He was in the facility in the morning, got treatment," said Thibodeau, who claimed he didn't know the full extent of Deng's situation after Thursday's 95-92 Bulls Game 6 loss to the Nets at the United Center. "Came in this evening, got more treatment, so basically I didn’t find out until about an hour, an hour and a half before the game."
Though Deng should recover, one of the side effects of the aforementioned procedure he went through is that he wasn’t able to properly function, according to the same source.
Marco Belinelli started in place of Deng, shifting Jimmy Butler over to small forward.
"It’s tough because he does so many things well on both ends of the floor, he’s a huge leader out there for us and he can just cover up for so many different people in a variety of ways, so it’s tough not having them out there, but more than anything, just his leadership role," Butler said. "He knows multiple positions, he knows where to be on the floor, so he can help you. He’s constantly talking. He is missed, but we want him to be well, so we want him to come back 100 percent."