The Great Britain national team is paying the price in more ways than one these days as they get ready to chase the gold at the 2012 London Olympics.
First it was paying upwards of 300,00 British pounds to insure NBA All-Star Luol Deng’s left wrist, and most recently it was learning the harsh news that Ben Gordon decided not to commit to playing for the GB national team.
It’s up for discussion which one is more costly for Britain.
Yet even after injuring his wrist back in January playing for the Chicago Bulls, the 27-year old Deng has insisted all along on suiting up for GB in the Olympics and that has not changed.
Now, Deng stands alone on the 12-man team as the lone NBA player on GB national team roster it was officially announced today.
“We have all worked very hard for this opportunity and to have the final 12 named is exciting. The next few weeks will fly by and I can’t wait to step on the court with my teammates at the Games,” Deng said in a team press release on Thursday.
“We plan to make Great Britain proud.”
Both Gordon — who was traded to the Charlotte Bobcats last week — and his new teammate Byron Mullens were set to be part of the squad until Mullens suffered a toe injury and Gordon claimed the trade to Charlotte led to his decision.
Gordon has never played for Great Britain and this is when they could have used him the most. Not only are they the host team, but they are in desperate need of some additional scoring.
So for now, the Gordon and Deng reunion will have to wait.
It is a bitter-sweet time when it comes to having NBA representation for Britain on an international level. This is only the second time in history that Team GB will be represented in basketball at the Olympics, and the first time since the Olympic games were last hosted by London in 1948. Because of this, Gordon has received some heat for his decision while Deng is playing for pride, his word and Britain.
Still, Gordon (and Mullens for that matter) time with the GB national team isn’t a closed chapter. That discussion and decision will come at a later date. The door is still open.
“I would like to congratulate all those who have been selected and at the same time pay tribute to those players that have just missed out,” explained GB performance director Chris Spice.
“It’s only through building our depth that we can continue to compete at the highest levels of international basketball and I am hoping those who just missed this time around will be with us on the road to Rio.”
Despite Deng being the lone NBA player on the team, GB does boast two standout players in both Joel Freeland — the Portland Trail Blazers draftee who is known as one of the premiere big men in Europe — and Pops Mensah-Bonsu of the Turkish club Besiktas. Although he carries NBA experience with Dallas, San Antonio and New Orleans, Mensah-Bonsu doesn’t carry the star status that Deng does. But he is coming off a successful season overeas after leading Besiktas to the Turkish League Championship and Eurochallenge Championship, where the athletic big man was named Final Four MVP.
All 12 players will be making their Olympic games debut after qualifying for London at the 2009 EuroBasket and then going on to beat Poland and Portugal at the 2011 EuroBasket.
After going 0-5 against Nigeria, Lithuania and Russia in Houston in a round of friendly games two weeks ago, the GB national team now prepares to face both France and Spain this weekend. From there, they will play Portugal, travel to Belfium to go against Tunisia and Belgium before the start of the Olympics in London.
That’s where they will be partnered in Group B with Spain, China, Australia and Brazil.
That’s also where Luol Deng — bad wrist and all — will try to put GB on his back.