After the Los Angeles Lakers traded D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov to the Brooklyn Nets, the front office wanted to create enough cap space for two max-contract players in this year’s free agency, which features LeBron James, Paul George, and DeMarcus Cousins.
At the trade deadline, the Lakers took a major step when they traded Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. to the Cleveland Cavaliers. While the Lakers have been heavily linked with James and George, there have been conflicting reports about Cousins.
The 27-year-old has established himself as one of the league’s best centers, but is recovering from an Achilles rupture. With the devastating injury likely having an impact on his upcoming free agency, Cousins is open to re-signing with the New Orleans Pelicans, according to Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated:
Oh yeah, for sure. This is my first time in free agency, but I’ve been around this business long enough. I know how things work. I’m not out here trying to hold a grudge or anything like that. I’m going to make the best decision for me, and I believe teams are going to do the same thing.
Cousins also believes he can return as early as the start of the 2018-19 NBA season:
“I’m looking forward to starting the season,” Cousins said. “That’s my own personal goal, so we’ll see what happens. That’s what I’m working on. The doctors haven’t really given me an answer because of the time I injured myself and the amount of time that I have.
There is no denying Cousins’ talent, but very few players in league history have been able to return to form after an Achilles rupture, especially big men.
Since taking over the Lakers front office, president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka have been consistent with their message about not spending money because they have the cap space to do so.
As a result, the four-time All-Star may be considered too much of a long-term risk for the Lakers. With James and George still in the mix, another option has emerged for Los Angeles in Kawhi Leonard.
Similar to George’s situation with the Indiana Pacers, the Lakers were willing to play the waiting game, but he was ultimately traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder and could potentially re-sign with them.