Lakers Rumors: Luol Deng Contract Petition Not A Priority For NBA
Luol Deng, Lakers
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

With the NBA shifting gears toward the 2020 Draft and free agency ahead of a December start for the 2020-21 season, the Los Angeles Lakers will be tasked with assembling another championship-caliber roster around LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

Although the front office, led by vice president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka, did a spectacular job last offseason, the Lakers are still feeling the effects of the previous regime under former general manager Mitch Kupchak.

In an attempt to shore up some much-needed resources, the Lakers applied to have Luol Deng’s $5 million salary cap hit removed via the career-ending injury application process.

While L.A. is expected to be over the cap regardless, they are hoping that it could help trim the payroll for 2021. However, the league had its hands full reaching an agreement on a start date for next season and are in no rush to make a decision on Deng, per Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports:

“I asked someone who actually works for the NBA itself, not for a team. They said it’s low on the priority list, as I’m sure everybody can imagine. Because what they want to do is figure out when the season is going to start. That was priority No. 1 for everybody. So what they are looking at now, I expect a ruling to come down on that some time before free agency opens. So probably sometime within the next couple weeks.”

Deng signed a four-year, $72 million contract in 2016 before he wound up playing in only a handful of games for the Lakers. He was ultimately relegated to a mentorship role during the team’s youth movement during that time.

The Lakers were able to use the stretch provision to spread the remaining cap hit over the coming years and he is still owed $10 million over the next two seasons. Getting their request for a career-ending injury application would effectively clear that money off of their cap sheet.

L.A. could have its work cut out determining the nature of Deng’s injury as a legitimate reason for the application to be approved. Meanwhile, the financial repercussions of continuing the season through the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has made it more difficult for them to get back on track by 2021.

Following his stint with the Lakers, Deng still managed to play 22 games with the Minnesota Timberwolves before injuries continued to take their toll. L.A. is now keeping their fingers crossed that this will not be enough to deter the NBA from making a decision in their favor.

Player escrow percentage still unclear

While the NBA and NBPA reached an agreement for when to start next season, they have not yet deiced on several financial factors, including escrow percentage that will be withheld from player salaries.

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