EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – The Los Angeles Lakers waived forward Luol Deng on Saturday, just over two years after signing him to a four-year, $72 million free-agent contract.
The Lakers didn’t disclose the details of a probable buyout with Deng, but they announced the move on the first day in which the final season of Deng’s mammoth deal could be stretched over a three-season span of the Lakers’ cap limit.
“We made this move to further our future salary cap and roster flexibility as we continue to build this Lakers team according to our current overall vision,” Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka said in a statement.
The 33-year-old Deng’s deal is a remnant of the administration of former Lakers basketball boss Jim Buss and general manager Mitch Kupchak. The duo handed a pair of generous free-agent deals in 2016 to Deng and center Timofey Mozgov, who got a four-year, $64 million contract.
Buss and Kupchak were dismissed seven months later, and Magic Johnson’s administration went to work ridding itself of lengthy commitments. The Lakers gave up guard D’Angelo Russell in a trade with Brooklyn last summer because they could include Mozgov’s contract.
Deng appeared in 56 games during his first year with the Lakers, but he played just one game last season with Johnson and Pelinka in charge of the Lakers’ front office.
Although the 14-year NBA veteran was the Lakers’ highest-paid player last season, he essentially wasn’t part of the team. He appeared in the season opener before dropping out of the rotation and eventually spending long stretches away from the Lakers.
The two-time All-Star felt he didn’t fit well into coach Luke Walton’s up-tempo system, and he apparently declined to rejoin the rotation when the Lakers were slowed by injuries. He requested a buyout or a trade, but the Lakers found no takers and didn’t want to absorb the salary-cap constraints of waiving him last season.
Deng’s departure and contract stretch should sharply increase the Lakers’ available cap room by roughly $12 million for next summer, when they hope to add a second superstar on a maximum contract to join LeBron James.
Deng is likely to find a home quickly as a free agent. Although Walton had said he was open to reintegrating Deng into the roster during the upcoming season, waiving Deng gives him plenty of time to sign on with a new team before NBA training camps open in three weeks.