Great Britain stars Luol Deng and Ben Gordon could be forced out of next month’s EuroBasket finals in Lithuania unless the sport’s bosses find around £1 million to insure the duo against a career-ending injury. And it is not just in the UK where the effects are being felt.

The potential of a blow of GB’s ambitions comes after talks between the NBA’s owners and players over a new salary deal broke down late on Thursday night, leading the league to effectively shut down operations with immediate effect.

The impasse means cover will have to be arranged to allow Deng, the Chicago Bulls forward, and Gordon, who plays for the Detroit Pistons, to turn out on international duty as Britain gears up for next year’s Olympics.

And British Basketball’s performance director Chris Spice admitted that the governing body has now begun its quest to ensure the pair are cleared to play.

“We’re trying to secure insurance coverage,” Spice revealed. “FIBA Europe has also looked into it on behalf of all the nations who have NBA players. We’ve look at their coverage as well as taking one out independently. The issue is that we have two players. The thing now is that we’re taking to insurers about what the conditions would be to bring the premiums down.”

26-year-old Deng, the lynchpin of Team GB, has two seasons left on a contract worth around £8 million annually. Three years ago, with the NBA’s own insurance in place, British Basketball had to find £272,000 to cover an additional premium due to a back problem. Although he is no longer deemed to be high risk, brokering a deal is still likely to prove both expensive and problematic.

“We’ve had to play around with how long it takes to kick in and the total sum insured. That keeps changing,” Spice confirmed.

“We’re probably half-way to where we need to be. It’s hard to be confident right now but these things tend to resolve themselves to the end. That’s how it’s always been in the past. So I’m hoping we can still do it.”

It is not just in Britain that concerns have been raised. FIBA, which has an accord with the NBA over the release of players for international duty, will monitor the situation as it progresses.

If there were no lockout, the NBA-FIBA agreement would regulate the availability of NBA players for their national teams. The agreement stipulates that NBA clubs have to release players for national team play as long as they are properly insured. The agreement is in place since 1990 and has worked very effectively.

If a collective bargaining agreement were to be reached before the start of the respective FIBA competition, the NBA-FIBA agreement would become effective again immediately.

There are continental championships – and Olympic qualifiers – in every part of the world this summer. The ramifications could be huge.

Baumann is concerned at the possible effects of a lockout.

“The lockout is very bad news for the basketball fans in the US and around the world,” said FIBA Secretary General Patrick Baumann.

“But it is obvious that a sustainable business model, fair to all parties, is needed, especially in these times of gloomy economic environment. This is not valid only in the US, but everywhere in the basketball world in order for our sport to continue its growth.

“We hope that the parties will find rapidly a solution, but above all we hope that the situation will not have a negative effect on the Olympic qualifiers this summer. We will do everything to support the players and our members in their desire to fulfil their Olympic dream.”

Many stars have recently expressed their desire to represent their country and bid for an Olympic place.

France have several NBA players in their squad, including the likes of San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker and Chicago Bulls big man Joakim Noah. They would be the worst hit by any exodus.

“The only difference between a lockout and a no lockout situation is that we have to pay more insurance,” French Basketball Federation President Jean-Pierre Siutat said, speaking in Lodz.

“We are aware of the situation with the players, now we have to wait for them to say yes. We are currently trying to raise the necessary funds to cover the additional costs and are thus trying to find somebody who can help us in France – the government or some alternative sponsor.

“Considering that we have six players from the NBA, we’re talking about a substantial amount of money.”

Despite the hurdles of insurance, health condition and leverage of the club owners, in the past, international NBA players have shown great commitment to their national team.

“Whether there is a lockout or not, I’ll be with the French national team,” Parker told French sports daily newspaper L’Equipe in a May interview.

Other players, such as EuroBasket 2009 gold medallist Rudy Fernandez of Spain, have also shown enthusiasm about being with their national teams. “I will play with Spain at EuroBasket,” he said. “It’s very important for us to qualify for the Olympics.”

Time will tell whether it will come at a hefty price.


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