When Los Angeles Lakers forward Larry Nance Jr. broke a bone in his left hand last week, there was a brief possibility the team might replace him in the starting lineup with veteran power forward Luol Deng.

Instead the Lakers started rookie Kyle Kuzma, who proceeded to put up double-doubles in both his starts. Kuzma has played so well, he may never come out of the starting lineup -- even when Nance is ready to return in 4-6 weeks.

Deng remained right where he has been for most of the season -- on the inactive list, while the Lakers prioritize developing their younger players over getting value out of the man they signed to a four-year, $72 million contract in the summer of 2016.

"It definitely hurts," Deng told ESPN on Monday after the Lakers' practiced. "But the only answer for me now is to prove myself away from L.A. I'm not asked to play, I'm not in the rotation, so I can't prove myself here.

"Most of these young guys don't understand the business of basketball, so if I come in here and I'm angry every day, I'm taking something away from them. I have to be smiling, I have to be in the best mood I can be in, because they're living their dream of being an NBA player."

Deng said he and his agent, Jeff Austin from Octagon sports management, have been working with the Lakers to find a resolution to the situation, either via trade or buyout, but he understands it may take weeks, months or even years to settle as he has two years and $36 million remaining on his contract after this season.