Luol Deng has helped Great Britain reach the quarter-finals of the Olympic basketball tournament despite suffering from a wrist injury.
The home team were beaten 95-75 by Russia in their first Olympic match since London 1948, which makes the Pool B match against Brazil tomorrow vital for Britain’s chances of finishing in the top four of the six-team group and qualifying for the last eight.
NBA star Deng decided to delay wrist surgery until after the Games so he could represent Great Britain, even though his team, Chicago Bulls, were keen for him to have the operation immediately and miss the Olympics.
Deng scored 26 points against Russia and insisted that physical pain would never have kept him from competing at London 2012.
“The wrist is great, I’m not thinking about it,” said Deng.
“I’m just playing out there and I have to keep going. These games are helping me know exactly how the wrist is and so far I’ve had no trouble.
“I can fix the wrist and come back and play but the Olympics are never guaranteed. I’m just lucky to have the opportunity to play in the Games. A lot of people don’t get that chance, so I took it.
“It was inspiring to play in that game and a lot of things were going through my mind. I decided to play in these Games because it’s an experience I will have for the rest of my life and it will never be taken away from me.
“A lot of people were saying I needed to sort out the wrist and have surgery, and I could have done that, but I would never have the opportunity to do this again.”
As well as Brazil and Russia, China, Spain and Australia are also in Great Britain’s group. Russia forward Andrei Kirilenko, who scored a game-high 35 points, expressed cautious optimism that the hosts could progress but Britain’s Pops Mensah-Bonsu, who was born in Tottenham, is concerned by the errors that were made.
He said: “The lessons we take into the Brazil game are not to beat ourselves. The mistakes we made will always be punished by a team like Russia.
“We’ll look at the tape of the Russia game and bounce back. We had some good parts but we have to look at the negatives, too, and figure out how we’re going to correct them.”