The Cleveland Cavaliers recently acquired Luol Deng in a trade with the Chicago Bulls, and you would assume they envision the 28-year-old remaining with the team for several years. Deng is scheduled to become a free agent after the season, but the Cavs may hold off on negotiating with him until they figure out where they stand with a more familiar impending free agent — LeBron James.
LeBron can opt out of his current contract with the Miami Heat after the season. The Cavs have yet to discuss a contract extension with Deng, and he understands why LeBron might stand in the way.
“He’s a great player, why wouldn’t you look at him?” Deng told Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports. “If he wants to come back home, that’s great for him and great for this organization. He’s a great player. Why not?
“I’m all right with that. I’m here to do what I can do and be Luol Deng. I don’t really worry about it. I don’t have the mindset that I can control what everyone else thinks. I just do what I can do and try to be the best at what I do.”
Of course, the Cavs could never publicly admit that they intend to pursue King James. Since LeBron is under contract with another team, that would be a violation of the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement. Team owner Dan Gilbert wrote a nasty letter to the fans ripping LeBron after he left, but we all know he would gladly welcome him back.
“I really think for Cleveland that LeBron knows the way he left, and he apologized for it already,” Deng said. “…And at the end of the day, he is a great basketball player and I think for him to come back to Cleveland is not only a great story, but you can’t hold grudges forever.”
As Spears pointed out, it would not be impossible for the Cavs to sign LeBron and extend Deng. However, Deng turned down a three-year, $30 million extension from the Bulls before he was traded. He will obviously be looking for a hefty contract. If LeBron opts out, he will become priority No. 1 for Cleveland. The same will be true for every other team in the NBA.