Luol Deng has made all of one appearance, spanning 13 minutes, for the Los Angeles Lakers this season. He is woefully out of place as they try to develop their young core, and he knows it. The Lakers have been open about it. And he’s being a pro about it.
But Deng’s agent is also working with Los Angeles on getting him out of town, via a buyout or trade, according to ESPN.com’s Ramona Shelburne:
Deng said he and his agent, Jeff Austin from Octagon sports management, have been working with the Lakers to find a resolution to the situation, either via trade or buyout, but he understands it may take weeks, months or even years to settle as he has two years and $36 million remaining on his contract after this season.
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.
Deng goes on to note that he understands this process could take a while…which is good…because it’s going to take a while.
The Lakers aren’t going to buy him out. Deng is owed $54 million through 2019-20, including this season, and they need his salary for next season completely off the books if they’re going to successfully carve out two max contract slots.
A trade feels equally unlikely at the moment. Cap space is coming at a premium in the post-2016 era, as the Lakers know all too well after using D’Angelo Russell, a No. 2 pick, to get rid of Timofey Mozgov’s deal. Jettisoning Deng now would require sweeteners that make paying him for three years worthwhile. By waiting until the summer, the Lakers are only trying to convince rival teams to absorb two seasons. And that could be the difference between them keeping and having to trade a valuable prospect, such as Brandon Ingram or Kyle Kuzma. So, yeah, expect them to wait.