The Los Angeles Lakers have changed directions, with the NBA playoffs out of reach for a fourth straight season. Head coach Luke Walton and his staff will solely focus on developing the team's young players while keeping veterans Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov sidelined for the rest of the season, according to ESPN's Ramona Shelburne.
"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 the team's younger players, sources told ESPN," she said.
Walton and company came into the 2016-17 NBA season knowing this would be another rebuilding season for the Lakers. It has been a process which has been ongoing for quite some time now as the team is still looking for the franchise's next star to emerge in the post-Kobe Bryant era in Los Angeles.
Last summer, the Lakers were hoping to make a splash in NBA free agency as they were armed with the cap space to bring in high-priced talent. Unfortunately, the team fell short in free agency once again with top-tier free agents like Kevin Durant, Al Horford, and DeMar DeRozan choosing to go elsewhere or simply stay with their current teams.
With all the top free agents passing on signing with Los Angeles, the Lakers brass had to explore other options. Those options turned out to be bringing in Deng and Mozgov at a high-dollar amount.
Although both players have had their moments at times during the 2016-17 campaign, the additions of Mozgov and Deng have been disappointing, to say the least. Neither player has fit into Walton's system as expected and both fell out of the rotation before ultimately being shut down for the season.
The Lakers will now move forward with rookies Brandon Ingram and Ivica Zubac as the starters at the small forward and center position.