Lakers Could Face Stiff Competition For Star Center’s Return

DeMarcus Cousins, former Lakers center.

Getty DeMarcus Cousins, former Lakers center.

Are the Lakers setting up a return of DeMarcus Cousins? With reports of the signing of wing Wesley Matthews to the $3.6 million bi-annual salary cap exception—a slot that was believed to be designated for the possible return of center Dwight Howard—speculation has now followed that the Lakers could let Howard go and pave the way for the return of the guy Howard replaced last summer, Cousins.

There was, at the same time, confusion about Howard’s future after he tweeted, prematurely apparently, that he would be returning to the Lakers. But it turned out, no deal had been reached.

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Going back to Howard might make sense because it might not be quite so easy for the Lakers to bring back Cousins, who would probably have to take the veteran’s minimum to return to L.A. for another try at a healthy run. That’s just about $2.1 million. Turns out, other teams are interested in what a healthy Cousins might be able to do–he did, after all, make four straight All-Star teams from 2015-18.

Cousins, of course, signed with the Lakers last summer after he rehabbed an Achilles tendon injury and returned to play half-a-season with the Golden State Warriors. Cousins signed a one-year deal for $3.5 million in L.A. but suffered a torn ACL the following month. After the team could not use him as a trade chip ahead of the deadline, he was let go by the Lakers in February.


Cousins Declined to Return To Lakers in NBA Restart

But the Lakers liked having Cousins around last season, and though he did not play a minute for the team, he will be given a championship ring. It would seem only fitting that Cousins come back and try to chip in for a second straight ring.

Cousins has been rehabbing and though he had the chance to sign on with another team during the NBA restart in Orlando following the four-month hiatus because of the spread of COVID-19, he instead focused on getting fully healthy.

In an interview with Sports Illustrated, Cousins explained why he declined to come back with the Lakers, or anybody:

I miss basketball in general. I’ve been playing this game since I was a kid, and I’ve never been away from it for this long, so I’m missing it more than ever. But due to the circumstances, it’s a different game right now. Nothing but respect to the guys who went out there to the bubble and are doing what they’re doing. For me, it just wasn’t the right situation or the right time to be trying to force myself. It’s already me battling to get healthy and the obstacles in front of me. On top of that to add the different elements that are amongst us, it wasn’t the right time for me. I look forward to next season.


DeMarcus Cousins Released Workout Video on Monday

This week, Cousins released a workout video this week that showed him looking spry and in shape, with the Twitter tagline, “Stay on your path the obstacles are part of the journey.” (He was also, for some reason, wearing a winter hat indoors.)

Maybe that is what got the rest of the league excited for his possible return.

The Lakers will hardly be the only team willing to give Cousins a shot. The Mavericks, uncertain about the health of Kristaps Porzingis’ right knee, would be a logical landing spot. The Nuggets, too, are said to have an interest in Cousins, but with Nikola Jokic on board, he would be in a strictly backup role—he at least wants a chance to earn a starting spot.

Miami is another potential landing spot—the Heat have long had interest in Cousins—and the Celtics have been connected to him in rumors, too.

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