Almost a month later, has he reconsidered?
The Cavs are 4-7 with Deng on board, a disappointing record considering all of the hope and optimism that he brought to the struggling team.
That's certainly not Deng's fault, as he's been a consummate pro while in Cleveland. Through his first 11 games, Deng is averaging 15.4 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.3 assists.
This summer, Deng will be an unrestricted free agent. We know he turned down a three-year, $30 million extension from the Bulls earlier this year, so the Cavaliers will have to significantly up that number if they wish to re-sign him.
The Cavs also have to prove that he can win in Cleveland and continue to win over the next three-to-four years.
Despite a slow start, Cleveland can still convince Deng to commit to the Cavaliers past this season, provided they take these three steps.
Show Deng He's Needed
In his first five games with the team, Deng averaged 18.4 points on 14.2 shots per game. Not surprisingly, a healthy dose of Deng meant a 3-2 record and a potentially lethal offense.
Over the last six games, Deng's scoring has dropped to 12.8 points while he has taken just 10.8 shots. A smaller role for Deng on offense has led to a 1-5 record in these six games.
So, what happened?
The Cavs decided to go back to an isolation-heavy offense. Whether this was the decision of Mike Brown, Kyrie Irving or a random locker room vote, it's clearly not working.
Deng is a smart player. He doesn't need the ball in his hands to be effective. He doesn't need to dribble the life out of the ball, ignoring teammates before jacking up a contested jumper with 10 seconds left on the clock.
No, Deng thrives on playing off his teammates.
He can cut to the basket, play the pick-and-roll or knock down the open jumper. Getting Deng involved in the offense was not only good for him and his morale, but obviously beneficial to the team as well.
One thing the Cavs need to do a better job of, as Deng pointed out, is playing off each other.
Cleveland needs to play better team basketball. We know this.
Putting Deng in the middle of the team's offense would not only go a long way to keeping him happy, but would in turn improve everyone else as well.
Overpay, Overpay, Overpay
Deng refusing $10 million a year from the team he loved and had so much success with isn't a good sign for the Cavs in negotiations.
How much is a versatile forward in his mid-to-late 20s worth these days?
If the Cavs expect Deng to stay in Cleveland, they'll need to offer him something in between.
When talking numbers, Deng and his agent have all the leverage. Luol Deng doesn't need the Cavaliers. The Cavaliers need Luol Deng.
Cleveland will have to come in with a four-year offer, as there's no way Deng agrees to a three-year extension before June 30.
Deng's scoring and rebounding are actually better than that of Iguodala's, and he has a $48 million contract. If the Cavs want to have any chance of bringing Deng back, they'll have to offer him four years and $48-to-$52 million.
Cleveland, given the climate and current state of the team, is going to have to overpay no matter what free agent it goes after.
The Cavs need to give Irving a star to play next to, which they've failed to do through the draft. Give Deng the money he wants, even if it means overpaying.
Fix the "Mess"
In the latest bit of cheerful news surrounding the Cavaliers, a report surfaced Saturday that certainly raised a few eyebrows in Cleveland.
Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News had this to say about Deng and the Cavaliers:
Deng has seen how a team mired in losing since LeBron James left town wrongly caters to its young star players, even as they continue to undermine head coach Mike Brown at almost every turn. In Chicago, where Deng broke in and played nine-plus seasons, there is a winning culture where players are expected to act like professionals and understand that they will suffer the consequences if they step out of line.
As Deng recently told one close friend, “the stuff going on in practice would never be tolerated by the coaching staff or the front office back in Chicago. It’s a mess."
So, there's that.
I previously described the Cavs' season as a three-ring circus, with Mike Brown claiming the title of ring-leader.
Reports like this, 100 percent truthful or not, further prove Brown has no control over this team.
Seriously, if this is the way Deng views the Cavaliers, why would he commit the prime of his career to playing here?
If the Cavs truly want to re-sign Deng, they have to change the culture. The quickest way to change a team's culture is to change the head coach.
If Deng is to stay in Cleveland, Mike Brown will have to go.
All stats via basketball-reference.com.
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