"He's got some bumps and bruises," Cleveland Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said before the game. "We just decided to rest him tonight."
Brown's decision doesn't come as much of a surprise considering the Cavs have already clinched the best record in the NBA.
"It's a fine balance," he said of resting his players. "In my opinion, there's no right answer to it. You can do this a lot of different ways. I said this earlier, if we go out there and win, what I did was smart. If we go out there and lose, then what I did was not smart. I'm OK with that. But, in terms of trying to get guys in tune, guys have been in tune all year. We have a great group of guys in there. ... We still want to try to get better each game, no matter who's on the floor. And hopefully win the game."
The news of James' absence was welcomed by the Bulls, who came into Thursday night's game just a half-game behind the idle Toronto Raptors for the final playoff spot in the East.
"Obviously it's a big factor," Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro said. "Cleveland's still very talented. Obviously, [the Cavs], are a different team without LeBron, but [Bucks center] [Andrew] Bogut was out last game. It didn't do us much good. We have to play well and we have to find a way to get it."
As for James, Brown was non-committal when it came to whether or not the reigning MVP would play on Friday night.
"I don't know," he said. "We'll talk about it again [Thursday night]. He may take [Friday] off, he may not. It will be a game-time decision."
Nick Friedell covers the Bulls for ESPNChicago.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.