Team USA started fielding a team composed of NBA players, beginning with the Barcelona Games in 1992, as the “Dream Team” charmed their host-city, while amazing the rest of the planet who watched the games on TV with their play, winning the Gold Medal with ease. Starting with that group, all of the Association players who have been fortunate to represent Team USA in these games, have said to a man, that playing in the Olympics was one of the highlights of their life.
A host of other countries have current NBA players representing their nations in the Olympics as well, with Manu Ginobili, a fixture on Team Italy, Steve Nash representing Canada, Anderson Varejao playing in the games for Brazil, plus a roster that could most likely win some games if they played in the NBA, as Team Spain, is filled with talented players starting with Marc and Pau Gasol on the front-line.
As much pride that every USA born player on Team USA must have in the fact that they represent their country in these games, consider an athlete, that did not grow up in the Land Of The Free And The Home Of The Brave.This player would spend the first few years of his life in a nation torn by war and strife; where surviving the day was never a certainty, when anyone opened their eyes upon the morning.
Chicago Bulls forward Luol Deng, grew up under those conditions as he was born in South Sudan, in 1985, when the country was in as much turmoil as it currently is. Deng’s father was a member of Sudan’s Parliament and arranged for his family to escape the country at outset of the nation’s second civil-war. The family first moved to Egypt, however England would offer the family political asylum, giving them true freedom and opening doors that would lead to Deng eventually playing in the Association.
The Bulls forward, tore a ligament in his left wrist back in January, which most likely will have to be surgically repaired. Deng told reporters at the time of the injury, that he would postpone surgery, to help Chicago win an NBA Title, as well as play for Team Great Britain, in the upcoming Olympic games.
The Chicago brain-trust wanted their forward to have surgery right after the Bulls were knocked out of the Playoffs in the first round. Deng reiterated his decision to the Bulls management, leading to what published reports described as a tense exit interview. Deng told “ESPN.com” that he totally understands that the team’s Director Of Basketball Operations, John Paxson frustration, as by delaying the surgery until after the Games means he will miss a bigger part of next season, then he would have had he had the procedure immediately after the team lost to the Sixers in the first round.
Deng said “I wouldn’t want me to play either. Pax is an athlete and, as an athlete who used to play, Pax understands me wanting to play. But as a GM that’s his job to try and get the team healthy and get the team ready for next year. I understand both sides to it.”
Although Deng totally comprehends Paxson’s point of view, it will not keep him from playing this summer for his country’s team. Considering that the last time Team Great Britain had a squad in the games, was 1948, it is far from certain that they will be back in the Olympics in 2016. This could turn out to be the only time that the forward will be able to play for his team in the games.
There have been rumors over the last few weeks, that the team was shopping Deng, perhaps because he did not adhere to the club’s wishes and forego the games. The forward said ”I believe there is always to some extent truth behind rumors. But as an athlete, if you get caught up in them, you are really wasting your time because it’s not something you can control … If it’s not true, a GM could always come out and say it’s not true. But if a GM doesn’t come out and say it, there are probably talks. And there should be. If I was a GM I would be shopping players around, too. I’ve got to show that I’m doing something.”
If the Bulls do decide to trade their talented forward for a package that would up-grade the club, of course they would have to make that deal. However, if the only reason they would trade him, was because he disregarded their desires, it will end up hurting their team in the long run.