INSURANCE DEAL COULD AVOID NBA BOYCOTT

The odds on a mass withdrawal by NBA players from this summer’s EuroBasket appears to be lessening after FIBA Europe confirmed that a collective insurance deal has been negotiated – allowing countries who sign up to safeguard their stars against injury.

The current lock-out has effectively negated their existing insurance protection through the NBA, leaving national federations – as well as on other continents – with a potentially prohibitive cost to secure their services for tournaments which also double up as the main qualifiers for the 2012 Olympic Games.

The issue, which has already seen Australia lose Andrew Bogut for the FIBA Oceania tournament, was on the agenda in New York on Tuesday in a meeting between FIBA secretary-general Patrick Baumann and NBA Commissioner David Stern.

Ben Gordon will incur a hefty insurance premium (Getty/NBA)

However FIBA Europe secretary-general Nar Zanolin underlined to MVP that an insurance deal is on the table which could smooth the path for stars like Great Britain’s Luol Deng and Ben Gordon to report for duty.

“We set up this plan through a broker, with whom we also insure all the European-based players,” Zanolin said.

“We went to Lloyds of London and a bunch of other insurance companies so not everybody is taking all the risk. We’ve offered, at a tremendous rate, the coverage of the salaries. Now it’s up to the national federations to go: ‘Player A, I’ll only cover his gross. Player B is net.’

“Because according to our limited knowledge, any player who gets paid through insurance pays no taxes on it. So federations are trying to insure the net instead of the gross.”

A number of teams, including Turkey and Italy, have already opened camp with players reporting as scheduled in the expectation that a final resolution will be found. However, the insurance costs would escalate as soon as they begin playing friendly internationals for their countries.

Great Britain is slated to open camp on July 30 although it is expected that a small number of players will not attend at the outset.

The longer the contract, the harder it might be, Zanolin admits.

“It depends on what the federations can negotiate with players and their agents,” he said. “We’re ready to insure up to a billion if necessary. It depends on them.”

British Basketball is understood to be considering FIBA Europe’s deal to facilitate Deng and Gordon’s involvement in Lithuania next month, as well as exploring alternative insurance packages.

Likewise, reports in Spain have suggested their national federation are attempting to find over £4 million to insure a NBA-laden squad which includes Pau Gasol and Rudy Fernandez. France confirmed on Tuesday that they have reached an independent deal to protect their North American-based recruits.

However Zanolin insists that fears that any pull-out would affect both the calibre of EuroBasket and the qualifying process for London 2012 are mis-placed

“At the last EuroBasket, even the world championships, there were a lot of so-called stars missing,” he said. “And it went on anyway. There was a lot of support.

“We have an insurance plan that would cover any eventualities. It’s up to the federations but it’s the best deal they could possibly get outside of the NBA.”

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