The Los Angeles Lakers old front office did not spend their money wisely in the summer of 2016, as they signed veteran forward Luol Deng to a four-year, $72 million contract.
Deng has not lived up to that contract as after poor play in the 2016-17 season, he wound up being shut down from March on and then after starting the first game of this season he has been inactive for the last nine games.
Lakers head coach Luke Walton likes having Deng as a veteran presence in the Lakers young locker room, but apparently, that is not good enough for Deng as he is seeking to be moved to a different team, via Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:
“It definitely hurts,” Deng told ESPN Monday after the Lakers practiced. “But the only answer for me now is to prove myself away from LA. I’m not asked to play, I’m not in the rotation so I can’t prove myself here.
“Most of these young guys don’t understand the business of basketball, so if I come in here and I’m angry every day, I’m taking something away from them. I have to be smiling, I have to be in the best mood I can be in, because they’re living their dream of being an NBA player.”
Trading Deng and his massive contract will not be easy for the Lakers front office, which Deng said he understands as he is said he is being patient with his current situation:
“I’m just being patient,” said Deng, who has been inactive for nine of the Lakers’ first 10 games. “Throughout my career I’ve never really been a guy who created drama or wanted to deal with drama. At the end of the day I know what it is, I know I can play the game. But it’s the situation that I came into.”
The Lakers were able to trade Timofey Mozgov, another bad contract from that same offseason, but it cost them a young asset in D’Angelo Russell to unload that contract.
If Los Angeles is unable to trade Deng then their other options are to buy him out or waive-and-stretch out what they owe him, which would stretch his salary out over five seasons as opposed to the remaining two after this season. Regardless of what ends up happening, it is apparent that neither Deng nor the Lakers are happy with his current situation.
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