The Los Angeles Lakers are pursuing a career-ending injury application that would clear Luol Deng's contract off their books, The Athletic's Shams Charania reported Tuesday.
The former Bulls forward last played in the NBA during the 2018-19 season, when he appeared in 22 games for the Minnesota Timberwolves. After signing a four-year, $72 million contract with the Lakers in the infamous summer of 2016, the team used the waive-and-stretch provision to both part ways with Deng and clear short-term salary cap space in the run-up to the 2018-19 campaign.
In fact, as part of those negotiations, Deng gave back $7.5 million from his contract (which had two years, $36 million remaining on it) for the chance to get out of Los Angeles and pursue a different destination to play out the twilight of his career, according to a 2018 report from ESPN.
By stretching him, the Lakers committed $5 million annually to Deng — which shows up as a dead cap hit on their books — through 2022, instead of roughly $14.5 million annually through 2020.
That originally freed them up to pursue high-profile free agents, including Kawhi Leonard, to team up with LeBron James in the 2019 offseason. Though they didn't land any big fish through outright signings, the Lakers did swing a massive trade for Anthony Davis and used their remaining cap room to fill out the back-end of their roster with veterans such as Danny Green, Avery Bradley, DeMarcus Cousins and more.
It all ended in a 2020 title for LA. Now, they're looking to shore up a loose end in Deng that could prime them for more flexibility moving forward.