The youth movement continues for the Los Angeles Lakers. With the NBA playoffs out of reach for the fourth year in a row, head coach Luke Walton has decided to play his young players while Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov remain sidelined.
On Friday, Deng was listed as inactive and wasn't seen on the Lakers bench as the team fell to the Boston Celtics at the STAPLES Center. Deng talked about not playing and understanding the reasoning behind it moving forward, via Mark Medina of the L.A. Daily News:
“I totally understand what we’re doing,” Deng told Southern California News Group. “He wants the guys to be in situations where they learn and play minutes. It’s always about what we’re trying to do. Why am I going to be on the bench if I’m not playing?”
Last month, Deng lost his starting role to rookie small forward Brandon Ingram. The veteran forward has not had much success coming off the bench since, which may have led Walton to make the move; to give more time to the rookie who the team hopes will develop into a star in the near future.
Deng, who is currently the highest-paid player on the team, appears to be out of place on this young Lakers team. The 31-year-old forward signed a four-year, $72 million deal with the team last summer making him the Lakers' biggest splash on the free agent market. Los Angeles also signed Mozgov to a four-year deal worth $64 million.
After 62 games, both Mozgov and Deng look like bad signings as neither player has made much of an impact in Los Angeles thus far. Deng appears to have lost a step or two while Mozgov hasn't really lived up to expectations either in his first season with the team.
It's not beyond the realm of possibility that both players miss the final 20 games of the season while being inactive or not playing due to Walton's decision, unless an injury occurs, forcing them into the lineup.