The Los Angeles Lakers have effectively shut down healthy veterans Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov for the rest of the season to give the majority of playing time over the final 15 games to the team's younger players, sources told ESPN.
Deng and Mozgov were the Lakers' big free-agent acquisitions last summer, signing contracts worth a combined $136 million over four seasons. Neither had been particularly effective this season: Mozgov averaged 7.4 points and 4.9 rebounds in 20.4 minutes per game; Deng averaged 7.6 points and 5.3 rebounds in nearly 27 minutes.
Deng, 31, and Mozgov, 30, had been replaced in the starting lineup and their playing time had been cut dramatically. Rather than play sporadically, sources told ESPN that Deng and Mozgov were comfortable with the decision to shut it down for the rest of the season after meeting individually with coach Luke Walton over the past few weeks.
While sources said the Lakers could revisit the situation with either player before the end of the season, the plan right now is for both to remain inactive.
The Lakers (20-47), who have the second-worst record in the NBA, will keep their first-round draft pick only if it remains in the top three. Otherwise, it is owed to Philadelphia, which acquired the rights to the pick from Phoenix, which originally acquired it as part of the Steve Nash trade in 2012.
Mozgov had started 52 of the 54 games he played in during the first season of a four-year, $64 million deal. The Undefeated's Marc J. Spears reported Tuesday that Mozgov had effectively been shut down for the rest of the season after playing just one game since the All-Star break.
Deng had started 49 of the 56 games he has played in the first season of his four-year, $72 million deal. He hasn't played since Feb. 26.
Lakers president Jeanie Buss fired general manager Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss, the executive vice president of basketball operations, on Feb. 21. Magic Johnson was named to succeed Jim Buss. Rob Pelinka was named general manager last Friday.
Before he was fired, Kupchak told the Los Angeles Times it could take "five or six years" to evaluate the success of the free-agent signings of Deng and Mozgov.
"This is not something that's evaluated in a half-season," Kupchak told the Times last month "Let's wait five or six years ... and look back on it and then we can say how our drafts went and how trades went and how free agency went."