One of the beneficiaries of the NBA’s return after a suspension since March because of the coronavirus was expected to be former Lakers center DeMarcus Cousins. The additional time, it seemed, would allow Cousins to heal the torn ACL he suffered last summer and give him a chance to breathe some life into his injury-marred career.
But Cousins is not quite ready to get back on the floor, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic, who wrote on Twitter: “Multiple teams have expressed interest in DeMarcus Cousins but have been told the four-time All-Star will sit out the resumed season and continue rehab for full return in 2020-21.”
That could be a blow to the Lakers, who were presumed to be the front-runner to re-sign Cousins as the league looks to reactivate at Disney World next month. L.A. gave him a one-year, $3.5 million contract in July, but after Cousins tore his ACL during a practice in August, the Lakers moved quickly to sign backup center Dwight Howard.
DeMarcus Cousins had Several Suitors
Even with Howard on the roster and playing well, the Lakers were still in the mix to bring back Cousins, who was with the team all season before he was released on February 24 to create the roster spots used to sign Markieff Morris.
Cousins was a target for a number of teams, as Charania reported. The Miami Heat were said to be one of the teams interested in Cousins and could still look at him as a potential signee next season.
There was also chatter about the Celtics, who have a fleet of big men on the roster but none of whom are stellar, potentially signing Cousins. The Celtics ruled out signing him last summer, though, because of the potential for “drama,” according to the Boston Herald’s Mark Murphy.
But Cousins has career averages of 21.2 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 3.2 assists. He is a six-time All-Star.
As one general manager told Heavy.com, “He is still a bargain. If he can stay healthy, he probably won’t produce quite the way we are all hoping or the way we are used to seeing from him, but even if he is 70 or 80% of his old self, there are a lot of teams who could use a guy like that, versatile, big body, can do a lot of things for you offensively.”
Dwight Howard Exceeded Expectations Replacing Cousins
Still, Cousins’ ACL injury came on the heels of his torn Achilles tendon while he was with New Orleans in 2018. He signed a one-year deal with the Warriors that summer and returned in 2019, playing 30 games and eight playoff games. He averaged 16.8 points on 48.0 percent shooting in the regular season.
But that dropped to 7.6 points and 4.9 rebounds as Cousins’ minutes were cut in the postseason because he was a defensive liability. He played only 16.6 minutes per game in Golden State’s playoff slate.
There was still some question, then, whether the Lakers would bring him back for their Orlando run. Howard has exceeded expectations on both ends of the floor, averaging 7.5 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks in 62 games this year, playing 19.2 minutes per night.
The Lakers could have brought him back but he might have had to remain on the bench. Instead, Cousins apparently will just skip Orlando altogether.