Luol Deng has only made one regular-season appearance for the Los Angeles Lakers in 2017-18, but the veteran has played dozens of games in his mind.
Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times revealed Deng heads to a training room and simulates being on the court while games are happening.
“When there’s action, he runs on a treadmill. When there’s a timeout, he stops. When the whistle blows, he runs again. When the Lakers are playing defense, he slides his feet as if playing imaginary defense.”
Although Deng has no place in a Lakers rotation, the franchise has been unable to move the forward because of his massive contract. Including this season, Deng is due $54 million over three years, according to Basketball Insiders.
But as Plaschke noted, both Deng and the team recognize that scattered garbage-time minutes are more beneficial for younger players.
The Lakers will eventually move on from Deng, and the most likely avenue is using the stretch provision. Rather than paying him $36.8 million during the next two campaigns, Los Angeles would “stretch” him to $7.4 million per season over the next five. It would open significant cap space in the short term.
Until then, however, Deng will be limited to his training-room routine on game day.