Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah has pulled out of the London Olympics, and All-Star teammate Luol Deng - who was officially named to Great Britain's Olympic basketball team earlier today - should follow suit.
Noah, who would have started for Team France, says he just isn't ready after suffering a gruesome ankle sprain in Game 3 of the Bulls playoff series with the Philadelphia 76ers.
"I'm absolutely not ready," Noah said in the July 4 edition of L'Equipe, France's version of a daily Sports Illustrated. "Given the problems that I have with my ankles, not going to the Games seemed to be the most reasonable decision."
And a reasonable decision it is indeed. Noah will, after all, make $11.3 million in 2012-13, a paycheck that will come from the Chicago Bulls, and making sure he's healthy enough to earn all that money should be his top priority.
Deng, who admirably played through the pain of a torn wrist ligament for a good chunk of the season, will make $12.3 million next year. He's long expressed his desire to play for his adopted homeland, and it's easy to understand why.
A native of Sudan, Deng and his family fled the war-torn country for England in 1993. It likely saved their lives. Playing for Great Britain in the games is a once in a lifetime opportunity for Deng, and he's eager to play and pay some back.
Bulls' management, however, feels differently - they'd prefer that Deng rest up, or have surgery and begin rehab, and they said as much in meetings with him after the team's early exit from the playoffs.
Call me selfish, but as a fan, I too would prefer to see Deng doing whatever it is that he needs to do to prepare for the upcoming season. The team will be without its superstar and unquestioned leader, and someone needs to step up and help fill that void.
In short, I don't want Deng playing basketball for anyone, anywhere, until he's 100 percent healthy. The bottom line is simple: Great Britain's basketball team isn't paying his salary.
The only saving grace here is that Great Britain won't be very good, and will likely have an early exit from the Games.
Notes: Two of the three Bulls (Derrick Rose, Noah) slated to play in the Olympics are now sidelined with injuries….. With Noah out, 2010 Bulls draft pick Kevin Seraphin - who was given to Washington in the 2010 salary dump - will get more minutes….. Mike McGraw at the Chicago Daily Herald yesterday tweeted that Noah's bum ankles might push the Bulls toward matching Houston's $25 million offer for Omer Asik.
Sources: Bulls' Noah out of London Olympics, Chicago Tribune; Injured Joakim Noah off French team, ESPN-Chicago; Bulls asking Deng to pull out of Games?, NBCOlympics.com; Olympics or Bulls: What should Luol Deng do?, CSN-Chicago; Deng heads up men's team for London 2012 Olympics, The Telegraph; Deng leads British Olympic basketball squad, Yahoo! Sports; Chicago Bulls Salaries, hoopshype.com.
YCN featured sports contributor Steve Merritt is - for better or worse - a lifelong Chicago Bulls, Bears and Cubs fan. He's followed the Bulls since 1969, when he tuned in after bedtime on a cheap dime store radio tucked under his pillow.
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