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Will Luol Deng Leave Bulls for Lakers?
“I’m human, so every now and then, it crosses your mind,” Deng told HOOPSWORLD when asked whether or not his pending free agency has been a distraction over the course of the young season.
After losing Dwight Howard last summer, the Los Angeles Lakers will be armed with copious amounts of cap space, and if history is an indication of what may transpire in the future, it may be in Los Angeles that one of Deng’s zealous pursuers await.
LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh are the big fish expected to be available when the summer of 2014 rolls around, but it is Deng who may emerge as the most realistic target for Jim Buss’ Lakers.
And if the Lakers come knocking, expect Deng to listen.
Even after signing Kobe Bryant to a two-year extension worth $48.5 million, the Lakers have a malleable payroll situation and have retained the flexibility to manufacture upwards of $30 million of cap space this summer.
Either James or Anthony would be nice, but it is Deng who Bryant refused to do without seven years ago.
Back then, Bryant believed that Deng, a 22-year-old member of the Bulls, had the potential to be a vital ally. Now, as he nears his 29th birthday, Deng has fulfilled that potential, becoming renowned as being one of the league’s more underrated two-way players. He’s also become a two-time All-Star and defensive stalwart.
And now, seven years after Deng emerged as the apple of Bryant’s eye, the Bulls are dealing with the uncertainty of an injury-riddled present, a tenuous coaching situation and a front office stubbornly opposed to consistently paying the league’s luxury tax.
The Lakers may once again come knocking.
With raised eyebrows and a sigh, Deng thought before he answered the obvious question—whether he could see himself as a Laker.
“When the summer comes, I can probably answer that,” Deng told HOOPSWORLD. “To be honest with you I’ve done my best – I’ve been in a contract situation before when I was young and it affected me. This year, during the summer, I told myself that no matter what, I’m just going to be in the gym working.”
Thus far, he has mostly kept that promise, even as the Bulls deal with another season without Derrick Rose. But it is far from easy.
“[Focusing] is a difficult thing to do,” Deng admitted. “But it’s the best thing to challenge myself to do. I’m not general manager and I’m not a team owner; I’m a basketball player.”
And obviously, a very good one.
In his recent sit down, Deng’s tone and demeanor was reminiscent of the last time he dealt with questions about the Lakers.
It was almost seven years ago on opening night of the 2007-08 season. There, in East Rutherford New Jersey’s Izod Center, he would take on the New Jersey Nets, yet all the media wanted to discuss was Bryant and the Lakers.
“I don’t know what is going on, exactly,” Deng told ESPN.com back then.
But what was going on was a struggle between Bryant and Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak. The Lakers were ready to grant Bryant’s earlier issued trade request. Bryant could have traded the hills of Hollywood for the tranquility of Chicago’s Millennium Park, but his one condition was clear.
Bryant wanted to join forces with Deng, not be traded for him.
Wielding a no-trade clause, Bryant vetoed a proposed trade that would have seen him sent to Chicago for a package built around Deng. Unable to otherwise find an agreeable trade for Bryant, Kupchak began pursuing his Plan B—acquiring a sidekick to appease Bryant.
Inspiring play from both Trevor Ariza and Andrew Bynum and a 7-3 start to the season helped the Bryant drama cool down and bought Kupchak enough time to pull off the paradigm-shifting trade that saw the Lakers acquire Pau Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies.
Now, three Finals trips and two championships later, the Bryant-Deng saga is ancient history and mostly forgotten, but with the Lakers and Bulls each at a crossroads with their respective franchises, this is the type of history that may repeat.
Only this time, the Bulls must deal with a more punitive luxury tax system and have recently considered trading Deng. With hefty financial commitments to Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and Derrick Rose, the Bulls were unable to come to an agreement with Deng on an extension, despite his desire to remain with the club.
“I don’t know what it’s like in any other locker room or any other organization — maybe it’s better, maybe it’s not,” Deng said. “I have no complaints with how blessed and how lucky I’ve been to be in such an organization for 10 years. Not a lot people could say that,” he said. “I don’t know if the grass is greener. Maybe it is, but my grass is green enough.”
Coincidentally, green is what may ultimately determine where Deng ends up after this season.
Read more at http://www.hoopsworl...cdQUC2Locje3.99
The entire article is a lengthy one but worth the read. Have fun discussing this.
Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas and all other holidays or celebrations you believe in or celebrate!
Edited by Majesty, December 27, 2013 - 06:57 PM.