Back in Chicago, Luol Deng says he still hopes for trade or buyout from Lakers

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREUCLA alum Kenny Clark signs four-year contract extension with Packers“It’s been hard,” he said. “It’s not easy not to play, but at the end of the day I’m trying to control what I can control. I’m still there with the team, I’m at practices, I’m trying to help the young guys as much as I can. For me, I would love to play. I don’t know if it will be here to be honest with you.”Deng said in November that he had asked the Lakers either for a trade or to buy him out of the two years remaining on his contract. He said Friday he is still hopeful for a resolution before the end of the season. In preliminary trade talks, teams have only shown a willingness to absorb the $36 million remaining on Deng’s deal if Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma or Lonzo Ball is included in the deal.The Lakers are not budging. Neither is Deng.“They’ve made it clear that I’m not wanted here,” he said “so for me I’ve just got to focus on what I got to control.”Deng started the season opener against the Clippers when Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was suspended, but that was his only appearance. Coach Luke Walton declined to explain why the Lakers have decided against putting their second-highest paid player to work, but indicated for the first time that keeping Deng inactive was a mutual decision. “We have talked about it, me and him,” he said. “It’s what the two of us have discussed in private and what is best for both parties.”Any role the Lakers could have offered Deng would have been a minor one, and it’s unlikely the veteran, who believes he can still help a team, would have embraced spot minutes.Walton added that Deng has “been great” and “a complete professional” despite what “hasn’t been an ideal situation for him.”Deng’s willingness to work with young players and remain a positive figure has been a silver lining in an otherwise ugly relationship. What investment does he have in a team with no use for him? Why bother even taking an interest in the development of players like Ball and Kuzma?“Because it’s not their fault that I’m not playing,” he said. “I can’t really blame them for anything. And plus, they really respect me. Not just basketball-wise, but any time you’re in a locker room and guys really go at you and make fun of you, that’s when you know they’re comfortable with you.“If I’m in a locker room where guys are not talking to me then that’s a different situation. But we have a good group of guys. If I don’t help I’ll always regret it.”BULLS GAIN FROM LAKERS’ NWABA GAMBLEThe Lakers were eager to collect as much spare change as possible so they could offer Kentavious Caldwell-Pope an even $18 million last summer. That meant waiving David Nwaba, a 10-day contract sensation who earned a place in the rotation with his efforts on defense and in transition.General Manager Rob Pelinka hoped Nwaba would clear waivers and could be re-signed, but Chicago swooped in, claiming the former Cal Poly star before the Lakers could bring him back.The Lakers might have tried to get too clever, much to the Bulls’ benefit. Nwaba is averaging 7.4 points and 4.6 rebounds in 23 minutes for the Bulls.“We love David and hope he’s here for a long time,” Bulls Coach Fred Hoiberg said.Nwaba, who appeared in 20 games for the Lakers last season, has been used to guard All-Stars ranging from Steph Curry to Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo.“He can get you an easy basket without calling a play because of his physical ability,” Hoiberg said. “Because of his speed and toughness, he’s never going to back down on the other end.”Nwaba said he has followed the Lakers’ season, watching games when they’re on but has not remained particularly close with any of his former teammates.“I used to play for them,” he said, “so every time I see them on of course I watch the game and just seeing guys excel is always good to see.” CHICAGO — When the Lakers practice, he practices. He shoots around at shootarounds and often lingers on the court after the team bus leaves, hanging behind to get in work with the rest of the team’s inactives. When the games begin, however, Luol Deng never leaves the locker room.Such is the peculiar nature of Deng’s 14th NBA season. The Lakers are paying him $18 million and he has seen exactly 13 minutes and 8 seconds of game action. Back at the United Center on Friday, Deng was surrounded in his corner of the visitors’ locker room by reporters.They wanted to know about his memories of his eight-plus seasons with the Bulls, the All-Star appearances, the run to the Eastern Conference finals.But also about L.A., and what exactly has happened to Deng with the Lakers.center_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img read more