Chicago Bulls forward Luol Deng is set to miss all of Great Britain’s friendlies ahead of next month’s Eurobasket qualifiers due to problems with insuring the Londoner against injury.
Both Deng and former NBA forward Pops Mensah-Bonsu have yet to join up with Chris Finch’s squad at their Surrey training camp and neither will play in Wednesday’s international against Canada in Cobham.
Mensah-Bonsu is expected to be available for Friday’s tune-up against Finland if he arrives, as scheduled, from his off-season base in Washington DC.
However Deng – who signed a £46 million contract with the Bulls in 2008 – might not even be allowed to practice with the national side while British Basketball officials continue their negotiations with the NBA’s insurers to cover him on international duty.
“He’ll be considered high-risk until his contract runs out in four years time,” admitted British Basketball’s performance director Chris Spice. “So although we’re still working through the details, it’s probably less than 50/50 that he’ll be able to play in any of the warm-up games. It’s the worst thing for him and the worst thing for us because he has to be ready to play.”
Meanwhile Kieron Achara believes he can cement his place in Finch’s plans by filling the void left by Deng. The 6’9” Stirling-born forward, who plays for Italian club Biella, is set to make his first start for GB against the Canadians.
“I believe I’m growing as a player every game and every practice,” Achara said. “I feel more comfortable with my role and what I can and can’t do. I know what I need to work on. My confidence is building. I just need to go into camp and show what I can do.”