With the Cavs leading 69-52 at halftime, Lue remained in the locker room and handed coaching duties to associate head coach Larry Drew.
“I’m not sure exactly what it is,” Drew said when asked about Lue’s condition after the game. “I just know that before coming out in the second half, he wasn’t feeling well. And I thought that there was a chance that he would (eventually) come out, but he just wasn’t well enough to come out, so we had to just go on.”
Lue had to exit a loss to the Orlando Magic on Feb. 6 because he was not feeling well. He also missed a game Dec. 21 against the Bulls with an undisclosed illness, needing to stay in the locker room after arriving at the arena and going through his pregame media duties.
LeBron James, who notched his 15th triple-double of the season and 70th of his career (33 points, 12 rebounds, 12 assists) was asked if Lue’s health has affected the Cavs this season.
“I mean, he’s the captain of the ship, so absolutely,” James said. “We worry about his health, obviously. That’s way more important than this game of basketball. We know he’s been doing everything he needs to do to stay healthy. Take even more measures to get himself right. Everything that’s been going on with our year, it’s just another one.”
James added that he and his teammates are prepared to stay the course when Lue is not feeling well.
“It doesn’t catch us off-guard because he’s been dealing with it for so long now,” James said. “But any time he doesn’t come back to the bench, it’s just an alarm going off, obviously. Like I said, his health is more important. He’s not going to talk about it, so I don’t want to talk about it no more either. That’s just how he is, and I don’t want to get too much into it.”
Lue did not speak to reporters after the game but could be seen emerging from the locker room with Drew afterward before making his way down the tunnel to the team bus.
“I don’t know if it’s impacting the team,” Drew said of Lue’s situation. “I think particularly at this stage of the season, this is the last day of a 13-day road trip. Certainly some elements are going to come up. As a head [coach], you wear a lot of hats. You have a lot of responsibilities. Sometimes these things, they come up and are unavoidable, and you just have to deal with it, but we know as a staff, if he’s not feeling up to par, we have to step up, and that’s just what we did.”
Lue, who turns 41 in May, seemed to be in good spirits prior to tipoff after being visited in the hallway outside the Cavs’ locker room by former teammate Dennis Rodman.
Health and injury issues have trickled down to the players as well. Only nine healthy players were in uniform for the start of Saturday’s game, which marked the end of Cleveland’s six-game road trip. Cleveland started Jose Calderon, George Hill, James, Jeff Green and Ante Zizic. The Cavs’ bench was limited to JR Smith, Jordan Clarkson and two-way players John Holland and London Perrantes.
The roster has been hit with a rash of recent injuries.
Kevin Love (left hand fracture) is expected to return sometime next week. Rodney Hood (lower back strain) rested again after returning to the lineup to play 19 minutes against the Portland Trail Blazers. He missed the Cavs’ previous two games because of his back. Larry Nance Jr. (right hamstring pull) missed his second straight game. Cedi Osman (left hip flexor) missed his fourth straight game. Tristan Thompson (right ankle sprain) missed his sixth straight game.
In addition, Kyle Korver is not with the team as he attends to a family member’s medical emergency.
“It’s been tough,” Lue said before the game. “Guys in and out of the lineups, different starting linueps, but I think tonight, it’s going to be a challenging game for us tonight also. And I think if we win this game in spite of all of the stuff that’s going on and finish the trip 3-3 with all the injuries we’ve had and different lineups, I think it would be a good trip for us.”
Cleveland secured the victory, even though the Bulls battled back from down 17 points to tie the game with 1:41 remaining in the fourth quarter. Clarkson, who scored 19 points off the bench, converted a go-ahead 4-point play on the next possession to put the Cavs back in control for good.
“I call this a very successful trip,” Drew said. “That’s what I call it. Given the circumstances of what we had to endure on this road trip — minus Kevin, minus Tristan early and then losing Cedi, losing Rodney Hood as well and then Larry Nance going down — to be out on the road for 13 days, six games, you come back 3-3, I call it a very successful trip.”