DeMarcus Cousins is currently on waivers after being released by the Lakers on Sunday to make room for Markieff Morris. However, sources tell Joe Vardon of The Athletic that both sides have expressed interest in pursuing a new deal in the offseason.
Even after being cut by the Lakers, Cousins is expected to continue rehabbing his torn ACL at the club’s practice facility. Not being on the roster means the big man can no longer travel with the team or sit on the bench during games, but the two sides are clearly still on good terms.
There was a belief that Cousins’ close relationship with multiple Lakers players – including former Pelicans teammate Anthony Davis – and the possibility of recovering from his ACL tear by the playoffs might keep his roster spot safe. However, despite some optimism about Cousins’ rehab timetable, the idea that he’d be able to contribute in the postseason this spring always seemed overly aggressive, as I noted last week when head coach Frank Vogel left the door open for the 29-year-old’s return.
In recent years, players like Zach LaVine, Jabari Parker, and Kristaps Porzingis, who have suffered torn ACLs, have taken at least 11-12 months to make it back, and it has generally taken them much longer than that to look like their old selves. Cousins tore his left ACL last August, after previously recovering from a torn Achilles and torn quad in the same leg.
By the time opening night arrives in 2020/21, Cousins will have had upwards of 14 months to recover from the injury, so that seems like a safer, more realistic target date. As such, waiving him instead of a healthy bench player was the logical move for the Lakers.
Because they’ve waived him, the Lakers will no longer have Cousins’ Non-Bird rights this offseason, but after so many major injuries – and with so many teams lacking cap flexibility – he’s unlikely to command significant offers on the open market. L.A. could potentially bring him back using the minimum salary exception or part of the mid-level exception.
It’s worth noting that if Cousins were to sign a new one-year contract with the Lakers in July and play out that deal, the club would hold his Early Bird rights in the summer of 2021. That would give L.A. the flexibility to offer him a significant raise if he has a strong bounce-back season.