The Los Angeles Lakers have been heavily criticized for the massive contracts that they gave to veterans Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov last summer. In total, the pair received $136 million over the next four years, which makes them the two highest-paid Lakers and represents 36 percent of the team’s total payroll this season.
The deals were scrutinized before the ink was even dry, and now that both Deng and Mozgov have been moved to bench roles, the cries of injustice have only grown louder. Deng recently told Mark Medina of the Orange County Register that he just does his best to ignore it:
“I don’t listen to it,” Deng said of the criticism about his contract. “I know people are on me. I know everybody is talking about it. I can’t control that. The only thing I can control is coming to the gym everyday and working.”
Mozgov also doesn’t focus on it and says that he just simply plays his game:
“I just do what I do,” Mozgov said about the pressure of playing up to his contract. “It’s not like I can jump over my head. I just do my stuff.”
Of course, neither player can truly be blamed for signing the deals that they did. They were presented with contracts that were legal under the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement and they agreed to them. It’s not their responsibility to worry about the Lakers salary cap or whether their deals are considered to be fair market value for their services.
At the same time, the frustrations of fans is understandable. The Lakers have been struggling in recent years, and due to their lack of assets, the margin for error is slim to none if they want to return to return to their former place atop the league.
Deng and Mozgov’s contracts won’t make the endeavor any easier, but with coach Luke Walton committed to giving minutes to the team’s young players, the Lakers will have to hope for improved production from Deng and Mozgov on the court next season.