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Page last updated at 10:40 GMT, Thursday, 3 June 2010 11:40 UK

GB's Luol Deng says LA Lakers can win NBA title

NBA Finals: LA Lakers v Boston Celtics
Coverage: Video highlights each day on the BBC Sport website (UK only)

NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Legend Jabbar on the NBA's greatest rivalry

By Rob Dugdale

Great Britain star Luol Deng believes the LA Lakers will prove too strong for Boston in this year's NBA Finals, which start on Thursday.

Boston beat the Lakers 4-2 in the 2008 finals to win a record 17th NBA title, but LA triumphed over Orlando to clinch last season's title.

"I think the Lakers will win because they have the home court advantage," said Chicago Bulls star Deng.

"It's going to be tough but it's going to be a good series."

Home advantage means that LA will host the opening two games in the best-of-seven series, as well as the final two if the series goes the full distance.

Luol Deng and LeBron James
There's been a lot of X-rays and a lot of MRIs so I'm pretty confident

Deng on his recovery from injury

Boston have surprised many critics with their run to a second final in three years, but Deng believes the presence of veteran players Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen makes them genuine contenders.

"They had a lot of injuries during the regular season but now those players are getting healthy at the right time," GB forward Deng told BBC Sport.

The Lakers are led by superstar Kobe Bryant, who is bidding to win his fifth NBA title, and Spain centre Pau Gasol, the man who took Spain to victory over GB in last summer's EuroBasket finals in Warsaw after the Brits had threatened to dump the world champions out of the tournament.

"Both of the teams have a lot of experience and it's becoming a little bit of a rivalry," said Deng, whose Bulls team lost in the first round of the play-offs to Cleveland, led by LeBron James.

James, who is expected to star for Team USA in the World Championships in Turkey in September, is a free agent this summer and the Bulls are one of the teams interested in signing him.

"I think the organisation's trying to bring someone in who can help a lot," said Deng. "They have a lot of money to spend so that should be interesting."

Game 1 (LA) Thurs, 3 Jun
Game 2 (LA) Sun, 6 Jun
Game 3 (Bos) Tues, 8 Jun
Game 4 (Bos) Thurs, 10 Jun
Game 5 (Bos) Sun, 13 Jun*
Game 6 (LA) Tues, 15 Jun*
Game 7 (LA) Tues, 17 Jun*
* if required

Many critics believe James' current club Cleveland remain his best option because they can re-sign him without affecting their salary cap calculations.

But several teams, including the New York Knicks, have cleared financial space in case 'King James' decides to leave the Cavaliers.

After being plagued by injury in the 2008/9 season, Deng sat out the EuroBasket finals but missed only 13 of Chicago's 82 games this season, averaging 17.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.

His recovery is good news for the GB programme as it enters qualifying again this summer.

Two years ago, Deng led GB's drive to their first European finals for 28 years with 24.2 points per game as the team beat Israel, Bosnia-Hercegovina and the Czech Republic to top their qualifying group.

"There's been a lot of X-rays and a lot of MRIs so I'm pretty confident," said Deng of his leg injury.

"It's making me a little slower and it's something the doctor said I would be dealing with for a long time.

"But the strapping on my leg is always going to be there and this is something I'm getting used to playing with."

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see also
NBA team sale to Russian approved
12 May 10 |  Business
NBA star Gordon to make GB debut
07 May 10 |  Basketball
GB teams plan Euro double-headers
08 Apr 10 |  Basketball
Coach calls for GB trio to commit
14 Feb 10 |  Basketball
GB overlooked for Worlds wildcard
12 Dec 09 |  Basketball

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