British Basketball’s performance director Chris Spice has opened a war of words with the NBA and the Chicago Bulls over Luol Deng’s availability for this summer’s Olympic Games.
The Great Britain star has reportedly come under pressure from his club to consider skipping London 2012 in order to recuperate from a wrist injury which might yet require surgery before the start of next season.
While international rules preclude teams from ordering players to withdraw, It is expected that the governing body will have to pay an insurance premium of around £300,000 to cover the South Sudan-born forward to represent his adopted country in a series of pre-Olympic friendlies as well as the Games themselves.
However, Spice says British Basketball will foot the bill for the cost which has been pushed up by Deng’s inclusion on the NBA’s own high risk list of players.
“The insurance to cover Luol is always expensive due his high value, and due to the back exclusion placed on him by the NBA’s insurers some years ago,” the Australian said.
“Our medical expert opinion remains that his back is no worse than others in the NBA but we have had to continue to cover this as we are contracted to do. Unfortunately, we have had no support from the NBA regarding this issue which remains a constant disappointment.
“His wrist situation will make this exorbitant premium even more expensive and we will have to make sacrifices to all our other programmes if we are to make this happen. It is difficult, but there is only one Luol Deng and there is only one London 2012 Olympic Games.”
Britain begin their pre-Olympic training camp in Houston June 14 and will hope to have Deng available for their opening friendly against Nigeria seven days later. In past summers, he has frequently delayed his arrival for international duty while the necessary clearance is obtained. And further negotiations will be still be required before the Londoner turns out for Chris Finch’s men in 2012.
“In basketball terms we are a small and emerging nation with not a lot of resources,” Spice declared.
“But we have huge pride and great ambition I am optimistic that we will find an affordable solution so that the best basketball player Great Britain has ever produced by some margin is able to take his rightful place alongside his team mates in the London 2012 Olympic basketball tournament.”
Deng, currently on holiday after the Bulls early play-off exit, has repeatedly affirmed his plans to play for GB.
“I’m going to play in the Olympics,” Deng told ESPN recently.
“If I don’t play for them, knowing that I had the opportunity to, explain to me, how am I supposed to live with that for the rest of my life?”
The NBA and the Bulls declined to comment.
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