Luol Deng reunited with his teammates on Thursday at the Berto Center. Most of them hadn't seen him since he left the United Center last week before Game 6 against Brooklyn, shaken and sickened by a bad reaction to a spinal tap.
Deng, who said he has lost 15 pounds in the last week, was able to describe his ordeal, which scared him, and recap his recent activities.
Contact information ( * required )
"I tried to shoot a little bit and I struggled. I couldn't do it," Deng said. "I'm weak and I have headaches. When I'm moving around a lot, my headache increases."
The spinal tap was performed to determine if he had viral meningitis. A thin needle is inserted into the lower back, drawing out spinal fluid.
What happened in Deng's case was his body continued leaking spinal fluid and he eventually had a second procedure done, a "blood patch," in which his blood was injected into the wound to help it heal and stop the leak.
Deng appears to be on the mend, but his body is low on spinal fluid, which surrounds and helps protect the brain. There's really no telling when he might be able to play basketball again.
"I wish whatever you take out, you could put it back in," Deng said. "It's just your body's got to make the fluid back up. I'm doing everything I can. I'm staying hydrated. The biggest thing is really eating. I've got to try to get my appetite back and eat as much as I can."
Coach Tom Thibodeau called Deng's status day-to-day, but there's no chance he'll play in Friday's Game 3 against Miami at the United Center. After that, the teams will get two days off before Game 4 on Monday, and even that seems unlikely for a return.
Deng has led the NBA in minutes per game the last two seasons, and he's missed playoffs in 2005 and '09 due to injuries. So this is a frustrating situation that seemed dire when he first entered the hospital last Thursday.
"It all started with I wasn't feeling well," he said. "I guess I had the flu, but my symptoms were really bad when I went to the hospital. They wanted to make sure I didn't have meningitis, which I'm thankful they wanted to make sure.
"I did the spinal tap, and after that it just didn't respond well. I started having severe headaches, was struggling to walk, started feeling really weak, started throwing up, constant diarrhea. I couldn't control my body, really."
Deng actually went to the United Center after the spinal tap, but was sent home and was soon back in the hospital. The Bulls lost to Brooklyn that night, and the next day Deng sent a stream of Twitter messages explaining to fans what happened.
"I just wanted people to know I'm not missing a game because of the flu. I wasn't at home on my couch just relaxing and watching the game. That wasn't the case," he said. "I don't think the flu would make me miss a game. It kind of bothered me a little bit that's what was being said."
Because he was so sick, though, Deng couldn't have the blood patch done right away, which may have lengthened his recovery time.
"I had to stay in the hospital of almost a day and a half, until my white blood cell count came back down to be able to go through the procedure," he said.
The good news is the Bulls won Game 7 in Brooklyn, then Game 1 at Miami without Deng, or Kirk Hinrich, who is out with a calf bruise. Every win against the Heat increases the chances Deng will be able to return before the playoffs end. He averaged 13.8 points in the first five games of the Brooklyn series.
"I want to play, but I don't know what I can do. I haven't done anything (since the illness struck)," he said. "It really (stinks).
"I've never been through anything like that. It was scary for me, scary for everyone that was around me. I never knew of a spinal tap before that, didn't know the reaction or the side effect of it, so I was really scared."