Regardless of what the fans and media say in Chicago, Luol Deng is playing in London for Great Britain at the Olympic Games.
Providing he goes through training camp without an injury, of course.
After an improved showing at Eurobasket 2011, Great Britain finished in 13th spot after claiming two victories against Portugal and Poland in a difficult Group A which included eventual winners Spain, hosts Lithuania and Turkey.
Having missed Eurobasket ’09 through injury, Deng was present two years later in the GB squad for the group games and averaged 24 points in five games played. He will once again lead Great Britain alongside fellow NBA stars Ben Gordon and Byron Mullens at the Olympics.
I’m looking forward to playing in the Olympics. I’m so excited to take part in this competition; I’ve been dreaming about it since I was a young kid,” he said to FIBA.com
“It will be fantastic to play at home, in front of our own fans.”
Deng knows all too well that with the whole world watching, the Games can be the perfect platform for Great Britain to show the huge strides that they have made and to prove there is more to come from the football (soccer) mad nation.
“My teammates and I will do our best. We’ll show that our basketball team has a great future,” he said.
While Chicago Bulls fans were left stunned by their surprise first-round exit to the Philadelphia 76ers in the NBA Playoffs, Great Britain basketball devotees celebrated as it meant their hero would be well rested in time for training camp and, indeed, the Olympics.
Contary to the GB fans’ reaction, Deng was disappointed.
“We had the best record in the regular season, but we were not able to play well during the playoffs. Derrick Rose’s injury was very detrimental to the team. It’s a huge disappointment for all of us, but we need to look forward,” he said.
People though in the windy city were left worried at the possibility that Deng would follow Rose, last season’s NBA MVP on the injured list by the start of the 2012/13 NBA season, when it returns to its 82-game format.
The Chicago Tribune were against Deng’s participation in London, stating that wealth but more importantly, a professional obligation was more important than representing your country and risking the wrist injury further.
Deng has delayed surgery on that wrist to play at the Olympics.
“I still don’t know if I’ll need a surgery. It will depend on how my wrist feels in the next few weeks. But right now, my mind is only focused on the Olympics,” he said to FIBA.com.
Famous basketball writer Scoop Jackson though sided with the British basketball public, saying that Deng, to a degree owes London and Great Britain his life following his move as a five-year-old to England from Sudan via Egypt as refugees and he wants to pay them back by competing in London this summer.
“The NBA did not save Luol Deng’s life. A $71 million contract did not save his life. Basketball in America did not save his life. England did. For him, there’s really no choice to be made,” Jackson said in his ESPN article.
Either way, Deng’s mind is made-up and in reality, it always has been. London and the realisation of a dream awaits.
Quotes via FIBA.com