Andrew Bogut has never been one to shy away from sharing his feelings on social media, and early Friday morning was no different, when he came across an article about Luol Deng sharing his thoughts on being benched by the Los Angeles Lakers despite wanting to play.
Bogut sounded off about the situation on Twitter, calling it was “crazy” and “unfair”:
This was one of the most craziest/unfair things I had seen in my time in the @NBA ! Luol is a great person and better teammate, who can still help a team. He has handled this situation better than most would...... pic.twitter.com/3AIdwl4yUp— Andrew Bogut (@andrewbogut) August 3, 2018
In his replies, Bogut also made it clear he doesn’t care that Deng is getting paid substantially regardless of if he plays or not — “Yeah, he wants to play tho,” Bogut tweeted. — and also called reporting that Deng didn’t want to take Corey Brewer’s minutes “lies.”
Nope. Lies— Andrew Bogut (@andrewbogut) August 3, 2018
Bogut’s point registered, it’s worth noting that he was bought out from the Lakers by the time they also bought out Brewer, after which head coach Luke Walton said he did consider playing Deng but decided with Deng and others that it wasn’t a good idea:
With Lakers depth issues on the wing, Luke Walton said team revisited possibility of minutes for Luol Deng. However, after conversations with “several people,” including Deng, they decided to keep him where he is.— Bill Oram (@billoram) March 17, 2018
None other than Deng himself confirmed that to Tania Ganguli of the L.A. Times:
“We just kind of all agreed that with 19 games, if I go out there and let’s say, God forbid, something happened,” Deng said. “The whole point was play the young guys [and] actually see what they could do in the summer with me and everything. If I was to get injured or anything, it would be a lot harder and it would it would defeat the whole purpose of me not playing 60-something games.”
Now, that doesn’t mean Deng now feeling that it was the Lakers’ decision to not play him is invalidated or anything, it’s just worth noting that he has admitted in the past that he played a role in that choice.
This is still a crappy situation for both Deng and the Lakers, though, because neither side is really in the wrong.
Of course Deng wants to play, but he also probably isn’t the best option the Lakers have at either small forward — where the majority of minutes are set to go to Brandon Ingram and some guy named LeBron James — or power forward, where James, Kyle Kuzma and Michael Beasley would seem more likely to get minutes.
For the Lakers, if Deng isn’t the the best option for the team, then they’re doing the organization a disservice by playing him, even if that’s what he wants. Due to the two years and $36 million left on Deng’s contract, he’s also essentially untradeable, and if he won’t take significantly less money in a buyout, the Lakers have no incentive to do that either, leaving both sides at an understandable if regrettable stalemate as Deng decides how much money the chance to play is worth to him, if any money at all.
It’s still possible Deng could earn some minutes at power forward during training camp if he desires, or even at smallball center should he show a willingness to play there, but it’s also worth pointing out that the Lakers reportedly consider him essentially retired, and it would thus seem unlikely he’s going to be earning minutes anytime soon.
Bogut is right that the situation is unfair in the sense that Deng wants to play, but there is also not too much that can be done, and the Lakers aren’t really in the wrong here either.
You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.