LOS ANGELES -- As a former refugee, Lakers forward Luol Deng believes it's important to speak out and represent those in troubling positions in the wake of President Donald Trump's temporary immigration ban on non-American citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries.
"A lot of these people go through a lot of things that they have no control of. To really see a light at the end of the tunnel and to go toward that light and then that light is turned off is very difficult, not just individually, but for the family."
"I remember when I was a kid, as a refugee in Egypt, every day, there was always a hope that we'd get to leave tomorrow and we'd get to go somewhere," he added. "You never knew where, but we just wanted somewhere where we could have an opportunity to make something out of it. That opportunity came five years later. Now, I'm thankful for growing up in Egypt, and I've learned a lot, but at the same time, I know what it feels like to wait for that opportunity to come every day."
Deng spoke after tweeting a statement on Monday in response to the temporary immigration ban.
— Luol Deng (@LuolDeng9) January 30, 2017
Like Milwaukee Bucks rookie forward Thon Maker, Deng was born in Wau, Sudan, which became part of an independent South Sudan in 2011. Sudan is one of the seven banned countries, along with Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. Deng fled the Sudan for Egypt and then the United Kingdom. He became a British citizen in 2006.
"My message out there was just to let everybody know that's going through it that I really feel what they're going through," Deng said. "Sometimes things happen that's out of control and all you can do is just pray and be positive for a change, but just know that there's a lot of people out there that really feel your pain and wish they could do a lot more."
Deng was asked about the notion some hold associating refugees with terrorism.
"I've watched the news and I've read a lot and if you really want to look into that, you've got to go into facts and what is true and what is not," Deng said. "From what I understand, I haven't seen a lot of refugees committing terrorist acts in this country. And going back to the story that I said earlier, it took me five years to get the opportunity that I got. I'm sure the background check and everything was done. Even to speak about this, I don't know where this goes afterward. We don't know where it goes afterward. Right now, it's just hope and being patient and seeing where it goes."
He stressed that his beliefs aren't political but based on his personal experience.
"I'm not really caught up in politics," he said. "I'm just speaking out as somebody who had an opportunity who's a refugee and how I feel about it. When it comes to politics and all that, I leave that alone, because once you get into that, sometimes people don't like your opinion."
And Deng noted that he wants to speak up on behalf of other refugees, perhaps to inspire hope.
"I just never want to be in a situation where I'm speaking about something that's affecting other people [because] that means something isn't right," he said. "But I'm more than happy to take the lead and to speak about it. Everything that I'm saying is nothing personal or it's nothing against anybody. It's just what I believe and how I've lived my life. Since day one, I've always dedicated my life to giving to others, because I know that I was given an opportunity, so I always try to do that."
Deng added, "You always have hope. No matter what, there's always hope. You always believe that things are going to work out, even sometimes when it seems like it's not going to. All you can do is just hope."
"I think it's bulls---," Lowry told reporters. "I think it's absolute bulls---."
"I think it's un-American," Watson said. "I think it's unconstitutional. I think it's ridiculous. And I think we can be better than that."
Detroit Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy took things a step further in his criticism of Trump's ban.
"It's starting to get really, really scary stuff now," Van Gundy said. "We're getting into the days of, now we're judging people by their religion -- trying to keep Muslims out. We're getting back to the days of, you know, putting the Japanese in relocation camps and Hitler registering the Jews.''