Miami Heat free agent Luol Deng has agreed to a four-year deal with the Los Angeles Lakers that is worth $72 million, per The Vertical.
Deng, 31, averaged 15.2 points, 8.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.2 steals in 28 games after the All-Star break, when he shot 48.4 percent from the field in 31.4 minutes. His versatility on both ends of the court made him a critical component for the Heat’s playoff run last season and should provide an incredible veteran presence for the Lakers moving forward.
“He was getting more space and room to run and cut and be himself,” Heat president Pat Riley said of Deng. “He’s a great leader. We love him. He’s a high-character guy. I consider him one of our core people.”
Deng joins a Lakers organization that has been active this far in free agency agreeing to deals with Jordan Clarkson (four years, $50 million) and center Timofey Mozgov (four years, $64 million) and have made qualifying offers to Tarik Black and Marcelo Huertas.
Deng earned $10.1 million last season in the final year of a two-year deal in Miami.
Sports Reporter Suing Kings’ Luke Walton for Sexual Assault Allegations
Sacramento Kings new head coach Luke Walton is already in the news, but for all the wrong reasons, and he has hired attorney Mark Baute to defend him against the allegations of sexual battery made by sports reporter Kelly Tennant, who is suing Walton.
According to TMZ Sports, Walton and his legal team are blasting the accuser, and Baute issued the following statement;
“Luke Walton retained me to defend him against these baseless allegations,” Baute said.
“The accuser is an opportunist, not a victim, & her claim is not credible. We intend to prove this in a courtroom.”
According to the suit, Tennant, who worked as a reporter for Spectrum SportsNet and SportsNet LA, claims that while Walton was an assistant coach for the Golden State Warriors, he asked her to come and meet him at the Casa Del Mar Hotel in Santa Monica, California, to drop off a book she had published.
Tennant says that she asked Walton to write the forward in her book due to a business relationship that the two had had for several years.
Upon arriving at Walton’s hote, he conviced her to come up to his room so that the two could “catch up” and upon arriving in his room Walton pinned her to the bed and placed his hips and legs over her body, forcing kisses on her neck, face, and chest.
Tennant claims that she screamed for him to stop and attempted to break free, but Walton held her down, groped her breasts and groin, and rubbed his erection on her leg.
Tennant claims she was “in shock and fear. She was afraid she was about to be raped,” the suit states.
Additionally, Tennant claims that when Walton finally stopped and released her he escorted her out of the hotel room as if nothing ever happened and she claims that “He smiled, laughed again and made the disturbing statement, ‘Good to see you,'”
The disturbing behavior allegedly continued while Walton was the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers back in May 2017, and Tennant claims that Walton once greeted her by uttering “vulgar, guttural sounds at her” and said, “mmmm … you’re killing me in that dress.”
The Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers, and the Sacramento Kings all stated that they had no knowledge of the alleged incident during Walton’s tenure.
What Future Injuries will the Los Angeles Lakers suffer?
With Monday’s loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, the Los Angeles Lakers’ playoff hopes are all but over. The Lakers are 5.5 games behind the eighth-seeded Clippers with 18 to go, and have one of the toughest schedules left with only 5 games against non-playoff opponents. FiveThirtyEight only gives a team with LeBron James a 2% chance of reaching the postseason. Even if you thought at the beginning of the season that the Lakers would not be competitive with the upper tiers of the Western Conference, no one expected this.
But with the Lakers’ season nearly over, the question now is what happens next. Will LeBron James finally activate “playoff mode,” and the team rallies for one final desperate run to reach the eighth seed? Or will we see new, mysterious injuries sprout up as this team folds and prepares for next season?
Looking at Past Injuries
If we are going to discuss injuries, we should first deal with one argument for this Lakers season. Some Lakers fans will inevitably point to injuries as the primary cause for this collapse. LeBron James has missed 18 games, and Lonzo Ball has missed over a month with an ankle injury. If the team had been healthier, maybe they would not be in such a hole. If Brandon Ingram, the one Lakers who has surpassed expectations this season, was playing, maybe that loss to the Clippers could have been different.
Perhaps. Lakers and Ball fans will often recite the statistic reported by the Los Angeles Times that the Lakers’ defensive rating has risen from a top-10 defense to one of the worst league with Lonzo Ball’s absence. And the Lakers went just 6-12 during LeBron’s missed 18 games. If LeBron had been around for that stretch and the Lakers had won 3 or 4 more, they would still be right in the playoff hunt despite this recent abysmal stretch.
But it is foolish to think like that. LeBron James is 34 years old, with incredible wear and tear from years of playing and going deep into the playoffs. It is fanciful to think that he can play all 82 games without trouble. Ball is also somewhat similar, when we consider that he played just 52 games last year.
Injuries are an inherent facet of playing in the NBA and many players commonly require skin & wound care supplies to treat them. Teams are defined by how they react to them, whether it is by players stepping up or by the front office signing useful replacements. And the Lakers have failed in both regards, and instead have chosen to send valuable players away like the ludicrous Ivica Zubac trade.
Shutting Things Down
So what is next? Sporting News reports that Kyle Kuzma will not be available for Wednesday’s game against the Denver Nuggets, though it sounds like Lakers fans can expect him to return to the court sooner rather than later. And LeBron James indicated that he will not sit out any games for the rest of the season unless he is hurt.
But while LeBron has his pride, Lakers fans should wonder if this really is the best course of action. LeBron during this stretch has often been compared to 2013 Kobe, who carried a struggling Lakers team and went absolutely bonkers to drag his team to the playoffs. But then he tore his Achilles, the Lakers were unceremoniously swept, and Kobe was never the same again.
LeBron has never been a true scorer in the way that Kobe was, but do we want that story to end the same way again? Yes, that run by Kobe was magical. But it played a role in the Lakers’ struggles ever since, and Lakers fans certainly should not want LeBron to push himself to the limit for what is clearly a lost season. Even if a miracle should happen and the Lakers make the playoffs, does anyone think this team has the slightest prayer against the Warriors juggernaut?
Missing the playoffs after so much hope would be an embarrassment, but that can be an incentive for this front office to wake up and realize how much they have screwed up. They have failed to get this team the depth it has needed in order to chase free agents, but that very lack of depth has combined with injuries to make the Lakers a far less attractive destination.
LeBron has one more thing to chase – the fact that he will likely surpass Michael Jordan in the all-time scoring list after his next game. And he will certainly play after that. But Lakers fans should not be hoping that he pulls a 2013 Kobe. This team has been cursed with enough injury luck as it is – and while it does not excuse the Lakers’ failures, there is no reason to run further risks.
Lakers’ Kyle Kuzma Signs with Sneaker Re-Seller GOAT
Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma has inked an endorsement deal with sneaker re-seller brand GOAT, according to The Athletic’s Sham Charania.
GOAT is the largest authentic sneaker reselling platform in the world, and Kuzma will serve as the brand’s first ever brand ambassador.
“GOAT has inspired me to start collecting more seriously and build my style around sneakers,” Kuzma said, according to a statement on PR Newswire. “People assume that, as an NBA athlete, you can get access to any kind of sneaker you want. When in reality, it’s hard to get the exclusive releases or shoes from the past, and feel confident they’re authentic. GOAT gives me a second chance at not only the limited releases I missed, but also the shoes I wasn’t able to afford growing up.”
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