The Los Angeles Lakers have effectively shut down healthy veterans Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov for the rest of the season to give the majority of playing time over the final 15 games to their younger players, sources told ESPN.
Deng and Mozgov were the Lakers’ big free agent acquisitions last summer, signing contracts worth a combined $136 million over four seasons. Neither has been particularly effective in their first season with the Lakers: Mozgov averaged 7.4 points and 4.9 rebounds in nearly 21 minutes a game; Deng averaged 7.6 points and 5.3 rebounds in nearly 27 minutes a game.
Deng and Mozgov had each been replaced in the starting lineup and their playing time had been cut dramatically. Rather than play sporadically, sources told ESPN that Deng and Mozgov were comfortable with the decision to shut it down for the rest of the season after meeting individually with coach Luke Walton over the last few weeks.
While sources said the Lakers could revisit the situation with either player before the end of the season, the plan right now is for both to remain inactive.
The Lakers (20-47), who have the second-worst record in the NBA, will only keep their first-round draft pick if it remains in the top 3. Otherwise, it is owed to Philadelphia, who acquired the rights to the pick from Phoenix, who originally acquired it as part of the 2012 Steve Nash trade.
Mozgov had started 52 of the 54 games he played in during the first year of a four-year, $64 million deal. The Undefeated’s Marc J. Spears reported Tuesday that he had effectively been shut down for the rest of the season following a stretch in which he has played just one game since the All-Star break.
Deng had started 49 of the 56 games he’s played in the first season of his four-year, $72 million deal. He hasn’t played since February 26.
Lakers president Jeanie Buss fired general manager Mitch Kupchak and executive vice president of basketball operations Jim Buss on February 21. Magic Johnson was named to succeed Jim Buss, while Rob Pelinka was named general manager last Friday.
Before he was fired, Kupchak told the Los Angeles Times it could take “five or six years” to evaluate the success of the free agent signings of Deng and Mozgov.
“This is not something that’s evaluated in a half-season,” Kupchak told the Times last month “Let’s wait five or six years … and look back on it and then we can say how our drafts went and how trades went and how free agency went.”