The Los Angeles Lakers and Luol Deng seemed to be at a never-ending impasse over the past year. The team had no use for Deng and wanted to get out of his contract and Deng wanted to move on to somewhere where he could play.
But the Lakers were unable to find a taker for Deng’s contract without having to sacrifice one of their prized young pieces, which they were unwilling to do.
Finally things came to an end as the two sides agreed to a buyout with Deng sacrificing $7.5 million, and the Lakers obtaining maximum salary cap space next summer. As it turns out, owner Jeanie Buss played a big role in the Lakers getting that done.
During “Evening With the Lakers,” general manager Rob Pelinka spoke about the decision to waive and stretch Deng, and revealed how a message from Buss was the turning point:
“Jeanie and I and Magic were meeting the other day and she had a profound line about we always want to protect players’ rights in the league and we never want to be an organization that gets in the way of something a player wants. Just the way we had constructed and built things, it didn’t appear there was going to be a big path for Luol to explore his passions of playing. And he made it clear to us through his agent that he was hoping to move on. We were able to negotiate it in a way, like you said it was a win-win. We have our max salary space for July 2019, so we were able to preserve that and save $7.5 million, and then allow him to go on and be a free agent. It worked out well.”
It is very refreshing to see examples of how the Lakers front office contingency works together. Buss, Pelinka and Magic Johnson have always seemed on the same page with everything they do and that has helped the Lakers team take major steps forward.
Deng was a true professional throughout the entire saga, which speaks a lot to him as a person. He deserves the chance to continue playing elsewhere, and now it looks as if the Minnesota Timberwolves will be that team for him.