Insider Sees Bleak Future for a DeMarcus Cousins Lakers Return

DeMarcus Cousins, at center, neer suited up for the Lakers

Getty DeMarcus Cousins, at center, neer suited up for the Lakers

When the Lakers brought in former Pistons big man Markieff Morris in February, less than three weeks before play was suspended because of the spreading coronavirus outbreak, they had to waive someone. That turned out to be rehabbing center DeMarcus Cousins, who had been signed to a one-year contract in July worth $3.5 million but suffered a torn ACL while working out in Las Vegas in August.

In the wake of cutting Cousins, reports emerged that the move might only be temporary. Cousins and the Lakers, it was reported, could reunite in the summer or even after the coronavirus suspension once his knee was healthy and he was ready to return to the floor. Cousins had even shown up at some Lakers games, including L.A.’s big win over the Bucks on March 6.

But not so fast, according to ESPN reporter Brian Windhorst. Returning to the Lakers might not be an option for Cousins, not with the performance and rejuvenation of center Dwight Howard, who could look to stick around in L.A. for next season after his contract is up.

Dwight Howard a Lakers Keeper

The Lakers have JaVale McGee under contract and play Anthony Davis at center for significant stretches. They probably don’t want four centers.

“I would think the Lakers are interested in keeping Dwight Howard to see if they can squeeze another year out of him at this production level than they are having a mystery in DeMarcus Cousins,” Windhorst said.

Howard was signed by the Lakers last summer after Cousins suffered his knee injury. At age 34, Howard has found a niche for himself off the bench with L.A., contributing 19.0 minutes per game, scoring 7.5 points with 7.4 rebounds. Even with limited playing time, he averages 1.2 blocks per game.

Howard had been with four different teams in the past four seasons before joining the Lakers and had appeared in only one playoff series, a five-game loss when he was with Houston in 2016.  He played only nine games with the Wizards last year, and underwent back surgery in November of 2018.

Lakers coach Frank Vogel told reporters earlier in the year that he thought Howard only needed more discipline in his game.

“Just from a basketball perspective, I felt like he was very talented but played without a lot of discipline, particularly on the defensive end,” Vogel told reporters. “And I felt like I could help with that, I felt like our coaching staff could help with that, bring back some of the discipline to his game. He came to us in a good place from a standpoint of wanting to change his game and accept any role that we present to him.”

DeMarcus Cousins Looking at Make-Good Contract

So where does that leave Cousins? Probably somewhere other than Los Angeles. He might struggle to get a new contract, despite being only 29 years old and a former All-Star.

When the Lakers signed Cousins last season, there were other teams interested, including the Heat. Cousins would have to drum up interest among teams willing to take a gamble on a big man. His inability to stay healthy will weigh heavily on his options.

“I think DeMarcus Cousins is looking at a make-good contract, even if it’s more than the minimum, I think, after the series of injuries he has had,” Windhorst said. “He’s had three consecutive serious injuries on top of each other—with the Achilles, the quad injury and then the ACL—all of which indicates maybe coming back and doing too much too fast. Which indicated he is going to need even more time to come back from this.

:He’s gonna have a job in the league, but I don’t think it’s gonna be for, quote, big money.”

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