Luol Deng has planned to represent his homeland by anchoring Great Britain's 2012 Olympic basketball team for quite some time. Unfortunately, those plans hit a snag, thanks largely to his brand spanking new $71 million extension. From Brian Hanley of the Chicago Sun-Times (via Blog a Bull):
MetLife, the NBA's insurer which covers the top 150 salaries in the league under a group policy, has the right to exclude 14 high-risk players every year.
Decisions are based on the player's injury history and the amount of money remaining on his contract. Deng came under MetLife scrutiny when he signed a $71 million, six-year contract at the start of this month. It is the fourth-highest contract in the NBA in terms of outstanding money.
MetLife subsequently used an MRI scan taken last November when Deng, 23, injured his back and missed three games to exclude him from the coverage.
Because MetLife has excluded Deng, he can't play in a qualifying tournament for the Olympics next summer without additional insurance, and as you'd expect, a policy to insure a $71 million contract isn't exactly cheap. How expensive? Try $500,000 a summer for each of the next three years. All told, that's about half of the national team's entire budget.
Even if the team had more resources, would it really be worth it? The British team didn't qualify for the Olympcis this year and certainly won't be expected to medal in 2012. It'd be nice to have Deng around to help make things slightly more competitive, but that's a hefty investment for what will amount to a handful of meaningless exhibitions.
(Some Bulls fans may be thinking, wait, isn't the bigger story that Deng's back is apparently some kind of ticking time bomb? Yeah, I guess that's possible, but I'm guessing MetLife is simply splitting hairs trying to weasel out of insuring one of the league's biggest contracts. Deng only played in 63 games this past season, but most of the time he missed was due to an unrelated Achilles injury.)