When the Los Angeles Lakers signed Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng to their bloated deals, they probably had conversations with both of them about the franchise’s priorities this year and moving forward. While that probably helped, there’s simply no way of knowing how veterans might handle perceived marginalization.
Fortunately for everyone involved, the judgement of character that the Lakers hoped for with both Deng and Mozgov held true, and they handled their respective situations with as much class and professionalism anyone could hope for.
Deng’s situation is a little easier to deal with as he still played Monday night in the blowout win over the Knicks. He’s also spoken about this situation early this year and saw the writing on the wall when he was signed after Brandon Ingram had already been drafted. He said the following after the game.
Deng: " The whole year I knew it was about young guys. I think everybody knows that."— Bill Oram (@billoram) February 7, 2017
Luol Deng was asked how he felt about coming off the bench. "Does it matter?" he said. "I would never make it about me."— Tania Ganguli (@taniaganguli) February 7, 2017
Mozgov’s complete DNP-CD makes it tougher to deal with. Ivica Zubac’s rise from cult hero to legitimate NBA player was probably unforeseen by Mozgov or the Lakers when the deal was made, which only further complicates the matter. Still, he was very measured in his response to the benching.
I caught Timofey Mozgov before he left the arena. He asked for time to process his benching. pic.twitter.com/22DswrLUag— Tania Ganguli (@taniaganguli) February 7, 2017
Mozgov obviously took the news a bit harder, but the team would probably much rather he sleep on the experience and speak on it tomorrow than fly off the handle with a emotional response in the moment.
Both Deng and Mozgov were aided in this situation by the fact that the Lakers had just won handily, lifting everyone’s spirits. This obviously won’t be the case from now on as the season goes along, so this is definitely something to keep an eye on.