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Luol Deng talks about life-threatening illness that kept him out of playoffs

Jul 31, 2013, 4:24 PM EDT

Chicago Bulls v Miami Heat Getty Images

If I were Luol Deng, I would have been pissed off.

Deng had gotten sick, had to have a spinal tap to test for meningitis, and the tap went bad causing a serious, life-threatening illness that he could not play through. The Bulls listed him as sick with the flu (which Joakim Noah was playing through). Guys don’t miss multiple playoff games with the flu. Deng took to twitter to correct the misperception.

Deng spoke with NBA.com about his recent trip to Africa to run some basketball camps, but part of the conversation was about how last season ended for Deng. And how he had to look at bigger issues that basketball.

“The end of the season was disappointing. 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.

“It’s something that I wouldn’t want anyone to go through, but when I went through it, I think that basketball became second – especially that because what I went through health wise, my family was very worried. I never want to experience something like that again.”

Basketball should be second; in the same way your job should not be the most important thing in your life. Work matters, but there should be family and friends, human relationships that matter more. If not, you’re doing it wrong.

I hope Deng is healthy next season. The same for Noah, Derrick Rose, Carlos Boozer and the rest of the Chicago Bulls — I want to see what a healthy, rested Bulls team can do in the playoffs against the Heat (and Pacers). Part of that would be Tom Thibodeau backing off the gas a little bit with the minutes, and part of it is luck — like not having a spinal tap go horribly wrong.

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