Out of all of the signings made by the Los Angeles Lakers in free agency, the one that holds the highest potential payoff is that of DeMarcus Cousins.
Since Cousins stepped foot in the league, it was obvious that he was one of the most talented big men and his prior relationship with both Anthony Davis and Rajon Rondo was a major factor in him coming to Los Angeles after his lone season with the Golden State Warriors.
Despite Cousins’ talent, however, Cousins has had limited team success. Couple that with reported attitude issues and consistently being among the league leaders in technical fouls earlier in his career and there were a lot of questions surrounding him.
He hoped to quell some of those by joining the Warriors last season, but injuries never allowed him to get back to 100% and he looked like a shell of himself in the 2019 NBA Finals. However, there were still some flashes in that series and now Cousins will come into the 2019-20 NBA season with a ton of questions surrounding him and a lot to prove — something he is used to.
“It kind of feels normal to me. I feel like I’ve been trying to show and prove myself my entire career,” Cousins said on a conference call. “I feel like I’m still at that point. I feel I do better under pressure. When the odds are against me, I feel like the best of me comes out. Whatever comes at me, I’ll just try to prepare myself for it the best way I can and face it head on.”
Despite his outside perception, Cousins has been lauded as an excellent teammate by those who have played with him. Davis and Rondo recruiting him to the Lakers after their time together in New Orleans is proof of that.
One major question going into the season is what Cousins’ role will be on this Lakers team. Davis has been open about wanting to play power forward, but will surely spend at least some minutes at center and JaVale McGee will fight for time as well. For his part, Cousins maintains he isn’t concerned about his role.
“Honestly, I’m just coming in and doing whatever I can to help the team go to the next level and win some games on a nightly basis,” Cousins added. “I’ll leave those decisions to the coaching staff. I’ll come in and control what I can control, which is my effort every night, my work ethic, etc.”
This one-year deal is a no-risk move for the Lakers and with a very high potential reward. If Cousins can return to even 80% of his peak form, the team has an All-Star center on their hands. A motivated, healthy, in-shape Cousins is a problem for the rest of the league, but a huge difference-maker for the Lakers and he’s ready to show it.
“When my name is called upon, I’ll be ready.”