Last season, Luol Deng played 13 minutes on the opening night of the season, then sat on the bench for the next 81 games, never to touch the court again. The Lakers regretted the 2016 signing of Deng, Magic Johnson wished they could find a way to trade him, and Deng wanted to play or be traded/bought out.
He was never going to play this season in Los Angeles behind LeBron James, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, and Michael Beasley, and to trade the remaining $36 million on his contract would have required serious sweeteners be thrown in the deal. The sides were at an impasse.
Finally, the Lakers and Deng have agreed to buyout where the team will waive and stretch his contract, a story broken by Shams Charania of The Athletic.
Exactly what that cap hit will be depends upon how much of a discount Deng is willing to take to get out of this situation. The stretch provision will not apply to this coming season but will kick in for the 2019-20 season for the second half of the buyout amount.
For the Lakers, this is the price of moving on from the mistakes of the previous regime and giving them a chance to bring in another star to go with LeBron.
Some team will sign Deng, but he will have to take the veteran minimum somewhere, and very likely not for a fully guaranteed amount. He will have to prove himself again at age 33. The last time he got decent run with the Lakers was two seasons ago, and in 56 games he struggled with the lowest point total of his career (7.6 per game), he shot just 30.9 percent from three, had a true shooting percentage of just 47, a PER of 10.1, and was below a replacement level player in the league. He looked like father time was winning the race. Maybe he has more than that in the tank, maybe he can prove that in 15 minutes a night off the bench he can still play good defense, grab some rebounds, and play a role on offense. Maybe.
He’s going to get his chance now, he just has to prove it.