Luol Deng, Lakers trying to reach a buyout or trade

By @saihoops on
Luol Deng
Luol Deng (9) drives against New York Knicks small forward Mindaugas Kuzminskas (91) during the second quarter at Madison Square Garden. Reuters/ Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Veteran forward Luol Deng has asked the Los Angeles Lakers for either a trade or a buyout, according to a report. Lakers coach Luke Walton has played Deng a grand total of 13 minutes since the start of the 2017-18 NBA season. Deng hasn't checked into a game since the season opener against the Los Angeles Clippers.

When power forward Larry Nance Jr. broke a bone in his left hand last week, there was possibility of Deng returning to the starting unit. However, Walton chose to go with rookie Kyle Kuzma instead. The Lakers are 2-0 since Kuzma became a starter and the team is currently playing an exciting brand of basketball.

"It definitely hurts. But the only answer for me now is to prove myself away from L.A. 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," a frustrated Deng told ESPN on Monday after a Lakers practice session.

Luol Deng trade won’t be easy to pull off

It would be a challenging task for the Lakers front office to find a suitable Luol Deng trade. Deng and the Lakers agreed to a four-year contract worth US$72 million (AU$93 million) ahead of the 2016-17 season. At the time, the previous Lakers front office, led by Mitch Kupchak, was lambasted for offering an aging player a hefty contract. Earlier in the offseason, the Lakers already moved Timofey Mozgov's four-year, US$64 million (AU$83 million) contract to the Brooklyn Nets, but not without attaching promising guard D'Angelo Russell.

Walton revealed the message he gave to Deng before sending the former two-time All-Star to the bench.

"We have a really young group that we're trying to grow together and get as much opportunity as possible. I know that that's not obviously the ideal situation for you or what you signed up for; I have compassion for that. What we need out of you is to be a really good vet, to be a leader in the locker room and be a mentor to these guys, because a lot of them look up to you. And for you to be ready. You never know how the NBA season goes. There's always injuries. There's always something that happens. Opportunities will be there," the second-year coach is quoted as saying by ESPN.

A potential Luol Deng trade is critical for the Lakers to execute their plan of acquiring two max-level free agents next July. However, it's easier said than done. Deng averaged a career-low tally of 7.6 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists from 56 games last season. He received 49 starts before the Lakers inserted rookie Brandon Ingram into the first unit. 

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