Luol Deng ready to defy trainer by fulfilling national duty
Luol Deng will fly in the face of advice from his personal coach and, most likely, his club, the Chicago Bulls, to play for Great Britain in the European Championship finals this summer.
The 6ft 9in forward is at present sidelined with a stress fracture of his right leg that may require minor surgery, the latest in a series of niggling injuries that have plagued Deng since his international debut.
The 23-year-old missed only four games out of 164 in the two seasons before his first game for the Britain team in the summer of 2007. But fitness problems forced him to sit out 19 games last season and 18 in this, with Deng widely expected not to play again for the Bulls this campaign, less than one year after he signed a six- season, $72million (about ÂŁ51million) contract extension with the club.
As is common in the NBA, Deng works with a personal coach during the summer, in his case David Thorpe, the respected media pundit. Thorpe echoed the Bulls' concerns about Deng playing in internationals and advised him to take a summer off to recuperate fully.
However, the suggestion was rejected by Deng, who is adamant that he will be in Chris Finch's squad when they play their EuroBasket group games against Spain, Serbia and Slovenia in Poland in September.
â€śI recommended to him that he take the whole summer off and not even train with me,â€ť Thorpe said. â€śBut Luol told me that was not acceptable. There is no way he is not going to help GB in some capacity. He will maybe not play as many friendlies. He will maybe adjust his schedule after consulting with Coach Finch and coming up with a plan that makes sense for everybody.
â€śLuol feels a sense of duty as far as GB is concerned but he also loves playing for the team and in the style that Coach Finch plays. That's what's driving Lu on and as soon as he is healthy, we will sit down with doctors from the Bulls and from GB to come up with a plan.â€ť
Deng's concession of playing fewer warm-up games could potentially disappoint GB fans who had hoped to see him play in a tournament planned for London in August.
And GB will still have to negotiate the Bulls' understandable dissatisfaction that their highly-priced asset is about to spend two
months of the close season on internatonal service.
However, as long as the British federation covers the insurance for the $62 million remaining on Deng's contract, the Bulls will be
powerless to prevent Deng from playing for his country.
so whats Dengs priority again?