From the start, Luol Deng has been clear about what he wants to do — his wrist may need surgery but he was going to play through it and be part of Great Britain’s Olympic basketball team, the way he played through it for the Bulls at the end of the season. Even if that meant surgery in August would keep him out for the start of the Bulls season.
Deng met with Bulls officials this last and there were reports they pressured him to have the surgery sooner and miss the Olympics so he would be back for training camp, but eventually they cleared him to play in the games.
How it went down has ticked off some officials from Great Britain, including the performance director for their basketball program Chris Spice. Here is what he told the Chicago Tribune (via CSNChicago.com).
“Luol Deng is hugely committed to the British Basketball program and he has maintained this stance despite recent pressure for him not to play after injuring his wrist during the highly-demanding shortened NBA season,” Spice’s statement said. “We admire and support his stance. Luol is a true professional and manages his body extremely well as shown by the high amount of minutes he was able to play for his club after sustaining the injury in January.”
There are a few issues in play here. For one, the Bulls will be without Derrick Rose through training camp and at least the first couple months of the season as he recovers from knee surgery. Because of that, they want Deng playing and not on the shelf, too.
But the CBA does not let the Bulls stop him from playing. For the Great Britain side that is the host of the games this is the biggest stage their program has ever been on and they need Deng (as well as other NBA’s on the side such as Ben Gordon and Byron Mullens).
Then there is the insurance issue. Because of Deng’s wrist and his big NBA contract ($13.3 million next season) it’s going to cost Great Britain a lot of money to have Deng on the team. Like $400,000 according to the London Telegraph. Again Spice:
“(It) is always expensive due his high value, and due to the back exclusion placed on him by the NBA’s insurers some years ago,” Spice 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, 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 programs 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.”
Bottom line is it is happening, Deng will be there marching in the Opening Ceremonies and suiting up for Great Britain on July 28. The team most likely not advance out of the group stage of play.
Then Deng will be re-evaluated and surgery will be discussed.