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Coach Chris Finch expects Luol Deng to return for GB

Chris Finch
Finch knows this summer could be crucial for GB

Great Britain coach Chris Finch expects NBA star Luol Deng to return this summer for GB's EuroBasket qualifiers.

Finch's team will play eight qualifying group matches with Macedonia, Ukraine, Bosnia-Hercegovina and Hungary.

GB qualified for last summer's finals in Poland but made an early exit as Deng, now in his fifth season at the Chicago Bulls, rested a leg injury.

"We are extremely sensitive to Chicago's concerns about Luol," said Finch, who has coached GB since 2006.

Deng, who missed the EuroBasket finals with a stress fracture of the leg, has had a strong season for Chicago, who have made a strong charge towards the NBA's end-of-season play-offs.

"I met with Luol recently and he's pretty excited about the season he's having," said Finch. "He had a disappointing year last year by his measure and the injury was the final blow.

"But anyone who knows Luol knows that he's not going to have two bad seasons in a row. He's proving himself again now to be the player they believed in two years ago when they gave him that big deal ($71m over six years)."

Finch, who has taken his Rio Grande Valley Vipers team to the D-League play-offs this season, would rather Deng and Chicago made the NBA play-offs - and a tie against superstar LeBron James's Cleveland Cavaliers - rather than have his star player wrapped in cotton wool.

"I want him to go as far as he can - we want all our guys to fulfil their goals," said Finch, who believes Chicago will behave fairly to Great Britain as they try to secure a hosts' spot in the 2012 Olympics.

"I only worry about what I can control and I can't control what the Chicago Bulls do with Luol Deng," he said. "I do know that we've always had a good relationship with the front office people there.

"Luol does have a small history of injury and I think that's circumstantial rather than chronic."

Finch is also looking to team Deng with CSKA Moscow's Pops Mensah-Bonsu, a combination that had great success when GB qualified for Poland in 2008.

I think we're getting there with Ben Gordon - we're talking about how to make it work for him

Chris Finch

He also believes Deng's presence will make it more likely that another NBA star, Detroit's Ben Gordon, will finally make his debut for Great Britain.

"I think we're getting there with Ben - last season he was saying a lot of things suggesting he would have played if Lu had showed up," said Finch.

"So if we need to link all that up through the buddy system then that's fine. We're talking about how to make it work for him and accommodate his needs."

With qualifying starting with a game in Hungary on 2 August, GB's preparation period will be shorter than last season, when the EuroBasket finals started in September.

"We like to have three weeks preparation but we're probably going to have to lose a week of that," he noted.

"We'll have a shortened preparation this year - we'll probably host a couple of games in London and then head to Israel for a tournament."

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see also
GB coaches face All-Star showdown
03 Feb 10 |  Basketball
GB's Pops relishing Russia chance
02 Feb 10 |  Basketball
GB overlooked for Worlds wildcard
12 Dec 09 |  Basketball
Deng 'can be UK's Jordan'
07 Oct 09 |  Basketball

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