Before DeMarcus Cousins ruptured his Achilles in late January of 2018, he was averaging 25+ points, 10+ rebounds, and 5+ assists a game for the first time in his career. Prior to that night, he was on a list of players that had recorded 11,518 points, 5,884 rebounds & 1,725 assists in the first 535 games of their NBA careers. The other names on that list? Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Charles Barkley & Wilt Chamberlain [Via @AndrewDBailey on Twitter].
After Cousins tore his ACL in a Las Vegas workout last Thursday, just 5 weeks after inking a 1-year deal to reunite with Anthony Davis in LA, it’s time that we have an uneasy conversation. At the age of 29, how much does the 4-time all-star have left in the tank? If you’re asking me, it’s more than the everyday NBA fan may think. Yes, Cousins’ unprecedented injury history includes a torn Achilles, torn Quadricep, and torn ACL in just 566 days. With that being said the “Is it over?” question is more than reasonable to ask.
We’ve seen athletes that were in similar situations take a long time to find their way back into a consistent rhythm. Take Derrick Rose for example. He became the youngest MVP in NBA history in 2011 but couldn’t find a job in the NBA a year and a half ago. After Rose’s impressive 2018-19 season, including a career-high 50-point game and his best play since his glory days, there should be some hope for once-great NBA players that struggled with injury to land on their feet eventually. How far will Boogie’s fall from grace really be?
Last season after Cousins, then a member of the Golden State Warriors, made his return from his first major injury, it is undeniable that he had a slow start, as any pro-athlete that hadn’t played a game after almost a calendar year of rehabilitation would have had. He was foul-prone, stiff and way out of game-shape. However, out of the thirty games he played in last year’s regular season, he tallied 8 games of 20 or more points, 10 games of double-digit rebounds, and 9 games of 5+ assists, including a game of 28, 13, and 5 in a late-season win over Denver. The way he ended the regular season in limited action was a promising sign for the Warriors going into the playoffs.
As we know, he would go down in Game 2 of the 1st round against the Clippers with a torn left quad, and his return in the finals would leave a lot to be desired, but the injury-plagued Warriors needed all the help they could get. Nevertheless, the fact that there was allegedly no market for the 6’11 big man out of Kentucky was absurd. The Lakers got away with robbery when they brought him on board for one year and took just a $3.5 million blow to their cap. After the Pelicans/Lakers historical blockbuster trade and Cousins’ signing, the league was ready to see the sequel of a Brow/Boogie frontcourt. He was reportedly in the best shape of his life and more motivated than ever, but after going down once again, we’re back in Boogie Wonderland.
What could’ve been? Would we have gotten the Boogie that put up 40 or 50 points and grab 20 rebounds multiple times a year? Probably not. Would we have seen the Boogie that gave 110% intensity night in and night out? Who knows? Would we have seen the Lakers not only back in the playoffs, but contending for their first championship since the Kobe/Pau pick-and-pop? Maybe we still can.
The Lakers now find themselves in a unique position. They have six players returning from a team that missed the playoffs last year, eight new additions after the craziest off-season in NBA history, and an open roster spot that belonged to DeMarcus Cousins. With the upcoming season being wider open than it’s been in recent memory and a lot of team’s game plans and chemistries up in the air, the Lakers still have a great chance at doing some damage.
The fact that LeBron Raymone James Sr. is coming off the longest off-season he has had since 2005 should make one expect nothing less than an MVP-caliber season and possibly a “King” we’ve never seen before. Additionally, did everyone just forget how good at basketball Anthony Davis really is? The former #1 overall pick in 2012 has recorded six straight seasons of at least 20 points per game, 10 rebounds per game, and 2 blocks per game, averaging 28, 11, and 3 in his last full season. The fact that he has never played 82 games in a regular-season may raise some red flags, but when you pair him with LeBron James, a rising star in Kyle Kuzma, a former teammate in Rajon Rondo, established veterans like Danny Green, Javale McGee, Avery Bradley and Jared Dudley (and Laker fans know not to sleep on Alex Caruso), not to mention a brand new coaching staff, and a couple “load management” days, on paper he is a key part to one of the best and most experienced teams in the league.
As a team, they have a lot to prove, and with the Western Conference not getting any weaker (especially considering the other team that plays in the Staples Center), don’t freak out if they start a little slow, but expect good things from the purple & gold.
As for DeMarcus Cousins, we wish him the best in his recovery and if I were the Lakers, I wouldn’t be hesitant to take another low-risk chance on the big man a year from now and see what they can get out of him. As for his roster spot, there are some interesting big men that the Lakers could bring in for a veteran’s minimum. Joakim Noah has proved he can still impact an NBA game and is someone that invests everything he can into the team he plays for, but his past with LeBron could leave that message on read. Marreese Speights is a former NBA champion with a nice mid-range jumper that’s been waiting for one more call from the league. Another interesting name (Laker fans don’t crucify me for this, just hear me out) is Dwight Howard. Yes, the first run in LA didn’t go so well and he is many years removed from his prime, but he’s also a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer and based on the last time he played NBA basketball, the 7’0 athletic enter clearly has something left in the tank.
No matter what happens, the Los Angeles Lakers, much like many other teams in the NBA that now find themselves in unfamiliar territory, are must-watch basketball this season. When it comes time for the playoffs, don’t be surprised if there is basketball being played in Boogie Wonderland.