Luol Deng signed a massive contract with the Los Angeles Lakers prior to the 2016-17 season. Los Angeles gave the veteran forward a four-year deal which would pay him $72 million. It was kind of head-scratching at the time, and in retrospect, committing that much money to a veteran in the midst of a rebuild was not a good idea.
This year, Deng hasn’t gotten much of an opportunity to earn that money. He’s appeared in one game — the Lakers’ season opener — and recorded two points in 13 minutes. The veteran forward is just completely out of the rotation and on the team’s inactive list, which isn’t the worst idea for the rebuilding Lakers, but it’s unfortunate for a guy who wants to play basketball.
According to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, both sides are looking for a way to remedy the situation. Whether it be via a trade or a buyout, the Lakers reportedly want to get out of Deng’s deal, while Deng wants to go play somewhere, even if the process may take a while.
A Lakers source confirmed that the team has met with Deng’s representatives to find a solution — via trade or buyout — that would allow him the opportunity to play more.
“You just never know. It could be a month, it could be a week, it could be three months,” Deng said. “I don’t want something to happen and I’m called upon but my shape holds me back. The challenge is to challenge yourself to be in better shape than if I was playing. Then if I fall short I’m still in good shape.”
Shelburne pointed out that moving Deng would be beneficial for the Lakers, as they’d get out of his contract before a free agency period in which they want to be aggressive and get a player on a max contract. As for Deng, he wants to get the opportunity to play, and he does not care how much he’s paid for the opportunity.
“I’ve always given it everything,” Deng said. “Every single team that I’ve played for, every single person would tell you that I’ve given it everything every single day. That’s the toughest part for me because I’m so used to competing and giving it everything. I’m also used to not doing great and turning it around. My whole life, every time I’ve been down, I’ve found a way to turn it around.”