There have been a lot of reasons for the Los Angeles Lakers struggles over the past several seasons, but chief among them has been the team’s difficulty recruiting free agents. Some of that was due to how bad the team was, a sort of chicken or egg scenario. The Lakers were also probably aiming too high, swinging for the fences when they should have been trying to hit singles.
Whether it was any of those reasons alone, some combination of the three, or other issues entirely, the Lakers’ fortunes changed this year to a degree when they signed Luol Deng to a four-year deal worth a reported $72 million. Deng was one of the top wing options on the market this summer, and possibly more importantly, he’s enthusiastic about suiting up in purple and gold.
“I’m officially a Laker,” Deng said in his first comments since officially signing his contract on Thursday. “I’m super excited, and I know that it’s going to be an exciting year with a lot of room to grow, and I’m ready to take on the challenge.”
Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak sounded equally enthused to have Deng aboard.
“Luol is a versatile defender as well as offensively talented,” Kuphack said in a team statement. “[He] is a high character individual who will be invaluable mentoring our young players on the court and in the locker room.”
That last part about mentoring young players will be key if Deng is ready to succeed in the challenge he’s eager to take on. Deng might be the most talented player on the team currently, and is certainly the most proven, but the Lakers are only going to proceed as far as their young core can take them.
If Deng can play any part in helping those players reach their full potential, his contract will be $72 million well spent.
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