With Kobe Bryant gone and the team in desperate need of mature leadership, the Los Angeles Lakers are turning to Luol Deng for help on the court and in the locker room.
The Lakers and Deng agreed to a four-year, $72 million contract Saturday, a person with knowledge of the situation told the Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal cannot be signed until July 7.
The 31-year-old Deng averaged 12.3 points and 6.0 rebounds for Miami last season. He has made the playoffs seven times in his career with the Bulls and the Heat and commands immediate respect with his work ethic and ability to relate to teammates.
That’s exactly what Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak sought to help shape an impressionable young roster for first-year coach Luke Walton. Those youngsters went wayward last season while Bryant concluded his farewell tour.
The Lakers finished at 17-65, the worst record in the franchise’s proud history, and were plagued by salacious headlines and speculation over how the young players responded to the old-school leadership from Bryant and former coach Byron Scott.
And the core of the team — D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. — got only younger last month when the Lakers drafted 19-year-old Duke forward Brandon Ingram with the second overall pick.
In Deng, the Lakers get a hard-nosed, defensive forward who can play multiple positions and provide solid offense. He is also known for his diligence in practice.
“I think history tells you that a bunch of young guys on a team is probably not a good thing,” Kupchak said last month. “They look around for leadership and advice from somebody who’s been through this a couple of times, and if there’s nobody to talk to, then they really don’t know how to handle the situation. So I think we will look to add some veteran leadership, and hopefully not only leadership, but guys who can help us win games.”
For the third straight summer, the glitzy Lakers have been on the outside looking in as the biggest names on the free-agent market have taken meetings and agreed to deals. They never got a meeting with Oklahoma City star Kevin Durant while DeMar DeRozan chose to stay in Toronto. It appears Al Horford will go elsewhere, too.
That’s why the Lakers didn’t hesitate to go to a fourth year on the big contract for Deng. He will be entering his 13th season, but has proved durable during his career with the Bulls, Cavaliers and Heat. And he had several other suitors lining up for a crack at him, including Tom Thibodeau, the former Bulls coach now with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Orlando lands Biyombo
Bismack Biyombo is on his way to Orlando to form a menacing new frontcourt with Serge Ibaka.
The Magic and Biyombo agreed to a four-year, $72 million deal, a person with knowledge of the situation told AP. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because a contract cannot be signed until Thursday.
Biyombo is coming off a breakout year in Toronto. His numbers don’t jump off the page — 5.5 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.6 blocks in a bench role — but he started to show more of the athleticism, toughness and shot-blocking instincts that caused him to rocket up the draft board five years ago.
Biyombo was the seventh overall pick in 2011, acquired by Charlotte in a draft-night deal with Sacramento. But he never was able to make a true impact in four years there, and some started to label him a bust.
In this year’s playoffs, however, he was superb, helping the Raptors finally get out of the first round and advance to the Eastern Conference finals.
Mahinmi choses Wizards
With no roster depth at center, the Wizards agreed to pay Ian Mahinmi $64 million over four years, according to a person familiar with the deal.
The person spoke to AP on condition of anonymity because NBA free agents are not allowed to sign contracts until next Thursday.
Mahinmi’s Twitter account had a message directed at the Wizards’ account, saying: “let’s goooo.”
The Washington Post first reported the terms of the contract.
The agreement came shortly after another player Washington reportedly was hoping to sign, Al Horford, chose to join the Boston Celtics.
Mahinmi should be able to provide defense and rebounding for the Wizards. He is a 6-foot-11, 250-pound center who averaged career highs of 9.3 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.5 assists and about 25 minutes in 71 games, all starts, for the Pacers last season.
The 29-year-old Mahinmi, who is from France, was drafted in the first round by the Spurs in 2005 and made his NBA debut in the 2007-08 season. For his career, he has averaged 5.1 points and 4.3 rebounds in less than 17 minutes.
Knicks line up Lee
Courtney Lee has accepted a four-year contract offer worth about $50 million from the New York Knicks, a person with direct knowledge of the negotiations told AP.
The Knicks will become the seventh team for the well-traveled Lee, who just finished his eighth NBA season. Lee averaged 9.6 points last season for Memphis and Charlotte, matching his career average.
Lee has also played for Orlando, New Jersey, Houston and Boston. He’s also been to the playoffs five times, including each of the past four seasons.
The agreement was first reported by Basketball Insiders.
Tolliver headed to Kings
The Kings reached a two-year, $16 million agreement with former Pistons power forward Anthony Tolliver, sources said. Sacramento also reached a deal with another former Piston, Arron Afflalo, who played with the Knicks last season.
Sacramento and Afflalo agreed on a two-year deal worth $25 million, league sources confirmed, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the deal cannot be announced until Thursday when the league moratorium on signing new contracts is lifted.
Tolliver averaged 5.3 points and 3.2 rebounds in 72 games while starting in only five games for the Pistons last season.
Last season, Afflalo averaged 12.8 points and 3.7 rebounds in 71 games, including 57 starts, for the New York Knicks.
Afflalo was picked 27th overall by the Pistons in 2007 out of UCLA.