On Jan. 7, the Cleveland Cavaliers and general manager Chris Grant made perhaps the boldest trade of the NBA season, swapping malcontent center Andrew Bynum and draft picks to the Chicago Bulls for All-Star forward Luol Deng.
Deng's noted professional and winning pedigree were supposed to help the callow Cavs as much as his scoring and defense.
Instead, it appears the dysfunctional Cavs locker room has already discouraged the nine-year veteran. According to the New York Daily News' Mitch Lawrence, Deng has been complaining of the situation in Cleveland to a close friend, saying, "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."
What has driven Deng to such despair after less than one full month in Cleveland? Lawrence lays out a laundry list of offenses from Deng's teammates:
- Guard Dion Waiters was kicked out of practice, but he still received his usual minutes in Cleveland's next game.
- Several players were out late partying the night before Cleveland's embarrassing 117-86 loss to the New York Knicks, the fifth loss in their last six games.
- Unspecified players taking off their uniform tops at halftime and refusing to play.
- Unspecified teammates mouthing off to Cavs head coach Mike Brown.
Deng will be a free agent after the season. If these reports are true, there is little reason to expect him to sign with Cleveland.
But that might not be Chris Grant's problem for very much longer. Lawrence also reports that the GM is likely to be fired after the season.
Deng refuted the accusations to the media following the Cavs' 106-92 loss to the Houston Rockets, per the Plain Dealer's Mary Schmitt Boyer and Jodie Valade:
Luol Deng was upset about NYDN article with anon quote saying he called #Cavs "a mess." Said: "I'm really disappointed and it hurt me (1of2)— M.S. Boyer/J. Valade (@PDcavsinsider) February 2, 2014
More Deng: " because I do care about the guys in the locker room. I've never in my career had something like that written about me." (2 of2)— M.S. Boyer/J. Valade (@PDcavsinsider) February 2, 2014
The Deng situation only adds to the Cavs' public relations problems. Earlier in the week, star point guard Kyrie Irving went public to deny rumors that he wanted out of Cleveland, per ESPN's Brian Windhorst.
On Saturday, Irving added that there was no truth that he wanted to fire his agent:
Kyrie Irving on latest rumor he wants to fire his agent, "That's 1000% false. I love my agent." #Cavs— M.S. Boyer/J. Valade (@PDcavsinsider) February 2, 2014
In conclusion, no one has been fired...yet. But if the Cavs keep this up, there might be pink slips flying all around Cleveland.