EL SEGUNDO — The trade deadline has passed and Luol Deng remains a Laker.
After executing a deal for two-time All-Star Isaiah Thomas that primarily ensures the Lakers will have the salary cap room to chase top free agents each of the next two summers, Magic Johnson was asked whether the Lakers engaged in any substantive discussions that would have freed the franchise of the $36 million owed to the 32-year-old Deng over the next two summers.
Johnson began to laugh, and then turned to Rob Pelinka, the Lakers’ general manager.
“We wish, huh?” Johnson said, continuing to chuckle. “No, that didn’t happen.”
To the reporter who asked, Johnson quipped, “You want to make a move for us?”
It was a moment of levity on a day that was overall celebratory, as the Lakers parted with valued reserves Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson, but added the expiring contracts of Thomas and Channing Frye, as well as Cleveland’s first-round pick.
None of that helps Deng, who has publicly expressed his desire to either be traded or bought out. The Lakers are likely to consider using the league’s stretch provision to waive him next summer, although there is also a line of thinking that the contract, signed amid the spending bonanza of 2016, will become easier to move as its 2020 expiration gets closer.
“We want to say this about Luol,”Johnson said. “Rob has been working very well with him to try to get him to a place where he can be happy. But there’s not been a trade for him. He understands that and he knows that.”
Deng has not suited up for the Lakers since opening night, when he started in place of the suspended Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. He appeared in 56 games last season, averaging 7.6 points and 5.3 rebounds.
“Luol has been an unbelievable professional and has stayed very positive,” Pelinka said. “He understands the situation. At some point we’ll figure out a way to resolve that (in a manner) that’s a win for him and for us, but this trade deadline wasn’t the window for that to happen.”
Magic Johnson was asked by @billoram if there were any substantive conversations about Luol Deng during the trade deadline, and his initial response is AMAZING! #LakeShow #Lakers pic.twitter.com/IWNU76YGx0
— Shahan Ahmed (@shahanLA) February 8, 2018
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