Let Luol Deng play for the Great Britain basketball team this summer
LUOL Deng is out of Great Britain's European Championship campaign after an insurance company refused to cover his £37.8 million club contract.
The news marks a sickening blow for coach Chris Finch and the entire national team programme as it continues to build towards the 2012 Olympics.
Deng, 23, signed a lucrative new deal with the Chicago Bulls two weeks ago after passing a battery of medical tests.
But the NBA's New York insurance company, which must cover all NBA players before they can play for their national teams, has refused to insure that contract because of an old back injury.
Deng missed three games in November with a minor back problem and the insurance broker's decision is based on an MRI scan taken then.
Under an arrangement with world governing body FIBA, the NBA is obliged to release any player who wishes to play for his national team but only if insurance requirements are met.
Although Deng is not the best-paid international NBA player, in terms of annual salary in 2008-09, he does currently have the largest value left remaining on an existing contract and, therefore, represents the biggest risk for an insurance company.
His absence will be a major setback for GB as they try and reach the 2009 European Championship Finals with qualifying games against Israel, Bosnia and the Czech Republic next month.
GB officials were last night exploring their options and preparing to lodge an appeal with the NBA - a step which sources claim would be futile.
The only other alternative would be for the GB federation to negotiate with the Bulls and insure Deng's contract themselves which is likely to prove impossible after the insurers decision.
Deng, who is currently with the GB team as they play a warm-up tournament in Sardinia, declined to comment last night but is understood to be devastated by the news.
Great Britain Basketball have also declined to elaborate beyond a statement made earlier today that Deng remains unavailable for this week's games in Italy.
The loss of Deng will leave GB severely depleted after it appeared that Finch would be able to field a team capable of becoming a genuine European force this summer.