NBA

Could DeMarcus Cousins Help a Playoff Team?

Ever since DeMarcus Cousins tore his Achilles tendon in the middle of the 2017-18 season, his career has gone downhill fast. Once deemed a candidate for a max contract, he is hobbled by injuries, taking a pay cut, and embroiled in an off-court incident with the mother of one of his children.

With charges dropped, rehab in full swing, and a chance of signing with a contender, however, could Cousins end up back on the basketball court sooner than we think?

The rise of DeMarcus Cousins 

Cousins’ talent was never in question as he entered the NBA from Kentucky. Drafted by the Sacramento Kings at just 19 years old, Cousins immediately showed he could be one of the most skilled big men in the NBA — when he kept his head in the game.

For all of his talent, Cousins had a knack for clashing with teammates, coaches, media, and opponents with shocking regularity.

Despite these issues, Cousins was the face of the Kings for six years, going from a troubled prospect to a famous NBA name. Hiccups occurred, such as his clashes with Paul Westphal and George Karl, but through all of this, he made a compelling case as the best big man in the NBA.

In his final season as a King, he averaged nearly 27 points per game, 11 rebounds, three assists, one block, and one steal. The Kings continued struggling to win and decided to change directions. 

The fall of Cousins

The Kings traded Cousins to the Pelicans, where he paired with fellow superstar big man Anthony Davis. While the duo took some time to make things work, they showed promise by 2018.

Unfortunately, Cousins’ injury woes began to flare up. He tore his Achilles in January 2017 after becoming an All-Star starter for the first time in his career. From there, the 29-year-old has experienced a whole lot of rehab with sporadic on-court appearances.

First, Cousins mounted a comeback with the Golden State Warriors as a role player. Though he was hobbled, he proved valuable. Unfortunately, a quad injury in the playoffs cut his comeback tour short. (He did make it back to the court in time for the Finals. In the offseason, Cousins once again moved teams when he reunited with Davis as a Laker. 

Continued drama

Thought to be a candidate for the Lakers’ third option, Cousins continued to rehabilitate his Achilles tendon and quad injury when another setback occurred. While practicing in the offseason, he tore his ACL. Many feared he’d miss the entire season due to the injury. Weeks later, another issue arose.

Fresh off of the injury and Cousins’ marriage to his long-time girlfriend, TMZ released audio that appeared to show Cousins threatening the mother of one of his children if she did not allow their son to attend his wedding. Rather than calmly ask her to reconsider her choice, Cousins threatened to “put a bullet in [her] f—ing head.” 

Not long after, his ex filed criminal charges, although they were quickly dropped and the case was dismissed in November 2019. With the off-court drama behind him, Cousins focused on returning to basketball. If Lakers coach Frank Vogel was to be believed, this could’ve happened sooner than we thought.

Will Cousins return soon?

An ACL tear can be a scary thing. Often, it causes players to miss prolonged amounts of time. With Cousins’ injury history, many believed he would not take the court this year. Vogel, however, seemed optimistic about Cousins’ chances — before the team waived him in February.

“He’s on track to get healthy by the playoffs, and we’ll have to see where he’s at with rhythm, and conditioning, and timing and all that stuff,” Vogel said on the Lakers YouTube Channel, “but there is a possibility he returns this season.”

The Lakers had to get somebody who could play, however, and Cousins is now a free agent. While his future in the NBA remains in question, he’s reportedly going to stay with the Lakers to rehabilitate. Whether this gets him back for playoffs or gives both sides a chance to try again next year, Cousins must be smart entering the offseason. 

As he learned last season through both his own injury and through former teammate, Kevin Durant’s, rushing back from injuries can have long-term consequences. If he is ready for the playoffs, which many don’t expect, he could be a valuable addition to any squad lacking depth at center. If not, it would be in his best interest to use the extended offseason to get healthy.

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