Former Great Britain international Luol Deng has expressed his desire to leave the Los Angeles Lakers after falling out of coach Luke Walton’s rotation.
Deng currently has two years remaining on his contract with Los Angeles worth $36 million but is unhappy at not being able to play or at least come off the bench as Walton has frozen him out. Deng admits that while his situation with the Lakers is hard, he still has to think of his team-mates, especially the rookies like Lonzo Ball, who are all living their dreams of being in the NBA.
The Lakers have focused on building their younger players and making them into future stars or role players. When forward Larry Nance Jr. broke a bone in his left-hand last week, there was a possibility that Deng might replace him in the starting line-up. Instead, the Lakers started rookie Kyle Kuzma, who has since put up double-doubles in both of his starts.
With Kuzma looking likely to get increased minutes, even when Nance Jr. comes back, it will leave Deng fading away into the distance even more.
“It definitely hurts,” Deng told ESPN on Monday after the Lakers’ practiced. “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.
“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.”
Despite the ongoing issues, Deng said that he understood where coach Walton was coming from, but it was difficult to hear after working hard all summer to improve on what he believed to be a bad season, last term.
“You spend the whole summer like, trying to come back for the city, for the team, to prove that it was just one bad year. But the opportunity’s not there,” Deng said. “I know I make a lot of money, but for me – I came from nothing so it’s always been about the love of the game.”
Deng, a career 45 percent shooter from the field, good for 15 points a game, is only averaging 2.0 points for the Lakers this season.