One of the signings that head coach Frank Vogel and the Los Angeles Lakers were most excited about from 2019 NBA free agency was that of DeMarcus Cousins.
However, that dream did not last long as Cousins tore his ACL in August while playing in a pick-up game and that changed the direction of the team.
The Lakers wound up signing Dwight Howard as his replacement, which ended up being one of the best moves of the offseason as his redemption story has been a remarkable one for the Lakers.
The Lakers filed for the Disabled Player Exception for Cousins at the beginning of the 2019-20 NBA season. And while it was granted, the Lakers never ruled out a possible return for him. They’re still not as Vogel believes Cousins is on track to be healthy by the 2020 NBA playoffs.
“He’s on track to get healthy by the playoffs and we’ll have to see where he’s at with rhythm and conditioning and timing and all that stuff,” Vogel said. “But there’s a possibility he returns this season, yes.”
Cousins being healthy enough to actually play for the Lakers in the playoffs would be an interesting wrinkle, although it’s unclear how helpful it would actually be.
Cousins will be coming off a torn Achilles, quad, and ACL with very minimal playing time in between all those injuries, so trusting that he can be a legitimate rotation piece on a championship contender may be far-fetched.
However, Vogel has proven to be a trustworthy voice in the Lakers locker room so if he says Cousins is ready to go, then he may very well be. What will be more important than the health of the knee is the conditioning as Cousins played a total of 38 games last season and spent a full year rehabbing the torn Achilles a season before that.
This will be an interesting storyline to follow for the Lakers, but it seems as though Cousins’ return may not be needed. The Lakers rotation at center is the most solidified of any of the positions and Cousins may not be better than Howard or McGee even at full strength.