Feb 23, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT
It became clear shortly after Luol Deng arrived in Cleveland that his stay with the team wouldn’t extend beyond this season.
Deng was reportedly shocked by the internal chaos going on with the Cavaliers, so much so that any chance of him re-signing there as an unrestricted free agent this summer completely disappeared once he saw the inner workings of the franchise.
Cleveland realized this, and worked furiously to try to get something in return for Deng in trade before the deadline passed. But Deng’s reluctance to agree to an extension with a new team, along with a lingering Achilles injury left the Cavaliers without any takers.
Deng has rebuffed all talk about an extension with the Cavs, and might want to sign with a contending team in free agency. Since coming to the Cavs, he looks like he’s either lost much of his explosion and athleticism he once had or his Achilles is worse than he is letting on.
We’re surprised the Cavs did not move Luol Deng. He’ll be gone on July 1, no later than a minute past midnight, and despite an Achilles injury that prevents him from practicing on most days, he’ll be high on everyone’s free-agent list. The Mavs, Lakers, Celtics, Magic and Charlotte are all interested. Why not stay in Cleveland? Kyrie Irving doesn’t make players around him better and Dion Waiters is a me-first player.
That’s two independent sources that mention Deng’s Achilles, and it isn’t a coincidence. The fact that he isn’t practicing and that his game has suffered recently can’t be discounted, because there are plenty of teams that could have benefited from the addition of Deng for the remainder of the season in exchange for a draft pick in the future.
But that’s Deng at 100 percent, not the current version that’s been wildly up and down in recent weeks. And with draft picks at an all-time high, no one was willing to part with one for nothing more than a half-season rental of Deng’s inconsistent services.