Luol Deng injury: spinal tap 'situation' could've been handled better

USA TODAY Sports

In an interview with NBA.com regarding his upcoming work in Africa, Luol Deng addressed the unfortunate way his season ended:

I worked hard all season, played in the All-Star, and wanted to take the team as far as possible in the playoffs. But then, when I got sick, I think that we could have handled the situation better. Obviously there are some things that you can’t handle. You can’t really handle getting sick, being taken to the ER or going to the hospital. I got the spinal tap and that’s where it went all wrong. My body didn’t react well to the spinal tap, I had some serious side effects that not only didn’t allow me to play basketball, but really put my life in danger.

I bolded the 'situation' line above, as I don't think Deng's disagreeing with the decision of getting the spinal tap, but how the complications afterwards were handled.

To which Yahoo!'s Kelly Dwyer has this fantastic response:

It was the height of absurdity that not only was Deng considered a potential game-time decision for Chicago's Game 6 loss to the Brooklyn Nets on THE DAY he underwent the spinal tap, but also that coach Tom Thibodeau refused to stand up for his player after the disappointing defeat - referring to Deng's "flu-like symptoms" following the game while meeting with reporters.

...

Thibodeau's remarks spoke volumes about the disconnect with just how good the Chicago Bulls are at preparing for actual basketball games, and how terrible the coaching staff and front office can be when it comes to treating their players like actual people with actual problems that go beyond suiting up. Thibodeau is an absolute genius when it comes to directing traffic on the court, but he's often out of his league when it comes to publicly handling things like these, or limiting minutes for players that badly need the rest. And after Thibodeau sold Deng out as being stricken with "flu-like symptoms," you'll recall, Deng had to take to Twitter in order to defend his name.

It was indeed an absurd attempt at gamesmanship by Thibodeau and the Bulls. While (as Dwyer points out) it doesn't matter as much as the coach's strategic acumen, it is a shortcoming. And maybe part of what's been driving this Thibs-Forman 'rift' we've read about this summer.

As annoying as it became (though good fodder for jokes!) to see the Bulls get crippled with the coaching staff and Org. blunder the fallout, there have been good signs this summer. The Bulls front office recognized a problem when it comes to team health, and Thibs himself has said that Joakim Noah will play fewer regular-season minutes this year.

Neither Noah (I don't think) nor Deng will be playing in Eurobasket this summer, which can only help their accumulated rest heading into training camp. Thibs is fantastic overall, but people-management is a definite spot for improvement. Hopefully we see some of that, even if it costs us some 'game-time decision' jokes, with a bonus if it won't be at the expense of his relationship with the front office.

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