Deng wants to play, seeks answers from Lakers

Veteran forward Luol Deng only played in one game in the 2017-18 season with the Los Angeles Lakers, as the franchise prioritized developing their younger players in what was a rebuilding year.

Deng, who signed a four-year, $72 million free agent deal with the Lakers in 2016, is unsure about his future with Los Angeles and is seeking clarity from the organization.

“I don’t know (where I fit in with the Lakers), I went with what they wanted,” Deng told Stuart Hess of IOL from South Africa, where he’s playing in the NBA Africa Game. “There has been a lot of talk. Me not playing was not my call. This is an organizational decision. People can say whatever they want to say, I respected what they were telling me. Throughout the year, I tried to play and every time they said they wanted to play the young guys, so that’s their direction.”

The Lakers have made a bunch of moves this summer. They signed LeBron James to a four-year max contract, as well as Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee and Michael Beasley.

Deng’s fit moving forward remains unclear. The Lakers have been unable to trade the 33-year-old, who has two years left on his contract.

“I don’t know what’s going on now, hopefully soon I will know, I would like to know the answers,” Deng said. “I know the level I can play at and the decision is something they came up with, whatever the criticism or the plan is, none of it was my decision, people need to understand that. They can say whatever they want, I know I can play the game, they see me at practice every day. If it was a game thing, then come out and say it, but the honest truth, it’s the decision they made.

“I want to play, I want to be a part of something. But I’m not going to be a part of a place where you don’t believe in me. I’m not trying to knock down anybody, but I play for people who believe in me. I’ve taken every opportunity since day one and proven myself, I’m not going to sit here and give you the right answer, I’m going to be honest about it. For me, if the respect and appreciation is not there, then I’d rather be elsewhere.”

Deng is a two-time All-Star and has career averages of 15.0 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 880 NBA games with the Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat and Lakers.