DeMarcus Cousins

Pelicans A Title Contender With Healthy Cousins?

In an interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols over All-Star weekend, Pelicans All-Star Anthony Davis shared what he thought of the Pelicans’ ceiling before teammate DeMarcus Cousins was lost for the season to a ruptured Achilles tendon.

“We could have gone through the playoffs. No one could really stop us as bigs. We go to the Finals if we went,” Davis told Nichols. “[Teammate Rajon Rondo] reminds us of it: ‘You guys are the two best bigs. I know what it takes to win championships; we got it.'”

Before Cousins’ injury, Davis and he were on pace to become the first teammates ever to each average 25 points and 10 rebounds per game for a season. Moreover, New Orleans was in sixth place in the West and climbing in the standings and Cousins was averaging MVP-caliber numbers.

Cousins will be a free agent this summer, so it’s interesting to wonder whether Davis genuinely believes the Pelicans could have realistically competed for a title this season or if he was just flattering Cousins as a recruiting tactic.

Davis is under contract with New Orleans through the 2020/21 season, but says that hearing former players such as Kevin Garnett express regret about not asking sooner for a trade to a more competitive franchise has made him think.

“It makes you think, ’cause you’re wondering if you’re following in that same path,” he said. “But then again, you’re like, ‘This year could be the year.’ So, just got to take it year by year and just see, and see where the team is going, what direction they want to go to and just see where their head is.”

NBA Players Weigh In On 2018 Free Agency

With a big offeason looming once the 2017/18 NBA regular season comes to an end, several ESPN writers spoke to NBA players to get their predictions on where they expect some of this summer’s top free agents to land. In total, 48 players weighed in. Here are some highlights from the results of ESPN’s survey:

  • LeBron James is considered likely to return to the Cavaliers, with 59% of the respondents picking Cleveland as his free agency destination, while 22% chose the Lakers. “He won’t leave after all the moves they made last week,” one Eastern Conference forward said of LeBron, referring to the Cavs’ trade-deadline deals. Asked where James should sign, even more respondents (66%) voted for Cleveland.
  • If James does decide he wants to join the Lakers, the LaVar Ball show won’t be a deterrent, according to 89% of the players surveyed. “If LeBron comes to L.A., then it’s the LeBron show. Not the Ball show,” said one Eastern Conference center.
  • Most of the survey respondents (80%) believe DeMarcus Cousins will re-sign with the Pelicans.
  • Only 33% of the players surveyed expect Paul George to be in the Thunder‘s opening-night lineup for 2018/19.
  • The respondents are slightly in favor (59%) of maximum salary contracts existing in the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. “LeBron, Steph and KD, all those guys bring a lot more than what they’re getting paid,” said one Western Conference guard. “But being a lower-tier salary guy myself, if you pay those guys even more, the lower guys on the totem pole don’t really get anything.”
  • Asked which teams make the best pitches to free agents, players chose the Celtics (27%), Heat (15%), Lakers (12%), and Warriors (9%), with nine other clubs receiving votes. One Eastern Conference guard on Boston: “If you bring Tom Brady? That’s pretty damn cool.”

Southwest Notes: Smith, Davis, Harrison, Martin

Mavericks rookie Dennis Smith Jr. impressed with his performance in the Dunk Contest, finishing third behind winner Donovan Mitchell and runner-up Larry Nance Jr. While the exposure from being in the event was great for the youngster, Smith understands that it’s not a guarantee that he will be a future All-Star, Eddie Sefko of Dallas Morning News writes.

“There’s a lot of guys who do the dunk contest that will never be in the All-Star Game,” Smith said. “But then again, I was in the Rising Stars. It’s all about timing. I’ll pace myself and whenever my time comes, I’ll be in there.”

Smith, 20, has been solid for the Mavericks this season, averaging 14.8 PPG and 4.9 APG. He has been mentioned in Rookie of the Year discussions alongside Ben Simmons and Mitchell.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Anthony Davis‘ evolution from All-Star game reserve to All-Star Game MVP to perennial All-Star has solidified him among the NBA’s elite, Scott Kushner of The Journal Times writes. Davis has taken the appropriate steps to increase his worth, including a developed three-point shot and intense rebounding. The regular season progression has been special but Kushner questions Davis maintaining that effectiveness in the postseason.
  • Sunday’s All-Star game was supposed to be a celebratory moment for Davis and DeMarcus Cousins as they were the two Pelicans selected to the event. However, a season-ending torn Achilles heel sidelined Cousins for the rest of 2017/18 and cast doubt on whether or not the impending free agent will ever team with Davis again, Kushner writes in a separate story.
  • Jarell Martin and Andrew Harrison were not expected to be major factors for the Grizzlies this season, having been candidates to be released in training camp. Even though the team is out of contention, both players have been solid, Chris Herrington of The Commercial Appeal writes.

Southwest Notes: Spurs, Holiday, Cousins, Wright, Mavericks

Spurs chairman and co-chief executive officer Julianna Hawn Holt has filed for divorce from former chairman and CEO Peter Holt, Tom Orsborn and Patrick Danner of The San Antonio Express-News write. The couple has been married for more than 30 years and their separation has raised questions about the Spurs’ future.

However, there is no intention to sell the franchise, which is valued at nearly $1.6 billion, according to a report released by Forbes.

“We are dedicated and committed to continued success,” Julianna Hawn Holt said in a statement to KSAT-12 in San Antonio, tweets Marc Stein of the New York Times.

Check out other Southwest Division news and notes:

  • In the Pelicans‘ win over the Lakers on Wednesday, Jrue Holiday reached 2,075 minutes on the season, reaching the minutes criteria bonus in his contract. Holiday will earn $255K thanks to the incentive, which had already been considered “likely,” tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks.
  • The Pelicans hit a rough patch after 2018 All-Star DeMarcus Cousins suffered a season-ending ruptured Achilles, losing five out of six games as they adjusted to life without their starting center. However, a three-game winning streak keeps the team’s playoff hopes alive heading into the All-Star break, Scott Kushner of The Advocate writes.
  • Former Mavericks owner and co-founder Don Carter passed away on Wednesday, per The Associated Press. He was 84 years old.
  • Free agent addition Brandan Wright does not have a defined role with his new team but Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni knows his purpose, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle relays. “Insurance, mostly,” D’Antoni said. “He’s to me the type of center we like. He’s long, vertical spacing and athletic, can run. He’s another kind of Clint (Capela). We have Nene and Tarik (Black) being one type and them being another type. That’s the depth. He’s a good guy. He’s going to be a good locker room game. All that’s positive.”

Lakers’ Free Agency Focus Shifting To 2019?

The Lakers are recalibrating their free agency focus, according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne and Adrian Wojnarowski, who report that the L.A. front office is “looking through a longer lens” as it explores ways to upgrade the roster. Although the Lakers would still like to make a big splash in free agency, they may now be prioritizing the 2019 class over this summer’s group, per Shelburne and Wojnarowski.

Ever since Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka assumed control of personnel decisions in Los Angeles, the team’s desire to pursue free agents in 2018 has been no secret. During the 2017 offseason, the Lakers limited themselves to one-year deals for free agents so as not to cut into their potential cap room for the 2018/19 season.

However, as Shelburne and Wojnarowski detail, there’s still no guarantee that the Lakers will have enough cap space for two maximum-salary free agents this summer, and even if they do, no star players are viewed as locks to head west. The Pelicans are considered the frontrunners for DeMarcus Cousins, who is sidelined with an Achilles injury, while Paul George has hinted recently that he’s leaning toward sticking with the Thunder. And according to Shelburne and Woj, LeBron James is believed to be hesitant about the idea of joining the Lakers without another established star joining him.

The Lakers haven’t ruled out the possibility of landing a big-name player this July, but shifting their focus to the summer of 2019 would reduce the urgency to clear cap room right away. It would also give L.A.’s young prospects more time to develop into the type of players that would attract veteran stars. The 2019 free agent class includes several intriguing potential targets, with Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson, and Jimmy Butler among the players expected to be up for new contracts.

While the Lakers could still end up moving players like Jordan Clarkson or Julius Randle this week in an effort to create more flexibility for July 2018, one league source suggested to Shelburne and Wojnarowski that the odds of a meaningful deal are “50-50 at best.” The Lakers have received some offers for Clarkson and Randle, but none of those offers would create significant cap space going forward and give them the sort of draft picks they’re seeking, sources tell ESPN.

DeMarcus Cousins Has Successful Surgery

The Pelicans have officially announced that center DeMarcus Cousins underwent successful surgery today at the Southern California Orthopedic Institute in Los Angeles to repair the season-ending rupture of his left Achilles tendon that he suffered in last week’s game against Houston.

As previously reported, Cousins will miss the remainder of the 2017/18 season, but his surgery went “very well” and he is expected to make a full recovery and be able to return to basketball after an intensive rehabilitation program.

Cousins, 27, had been playing at an All-NBA level before the injury, appearing in 48 games and averaging 25.2 points, 12.9 rebounds, and 5.4 assists per game.

Southwest Notes: Evans, Parsons, Cousins

A Grizzlies beat writer says that he wouldn’t be surprised if Tyreke Evans is moved to the Celtics. Bear in mind that Ronald Tillery of The Memphis Commercial Appeal says himself that the rumblings aren’t confirmed but it’s not the first time that Evans’ name has come up in trade speculation this season.

Evans has thrived for the Grizzlies this season after inking a one-year, prove it deal following an injury plagued tenure with the Pelicans. The 28-year-old has averaged 19.4 points, 5.1 rebounds and 5.0 assists in 45 games for Memphis, making him one of the most appealing assets readily available to contenders ahead of the deadline.

It’s unclear what the Grizzlies could get back in exchange for the versatile wing but the Celtics are in possession of Memphis’ 2019 first-round pick.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

Southwest Notes: Cousins, Pelicans, Conley, Gay

The season-ending injury to DeMarcus Cousins hasn’t changed the Pelicans‘ plans to add talent by the February 8 trade deadline, according to Scott Kushner of The Journal Times. The loss of Cousins, who was averaging 25.5 points and 12.9 rebounds per game, leaves a big hole in the lineup and New Orleans will be aggressive on the trade market to try to compensate for his absence.

The Pelicans, who hold a three-game lead over the ninth-place Clippers, don’t plan to change their approach on the court without Cousins. They will continue to push the pace and emphasize ball movement, with Anthony Davis sliding from power forward to center except in rare occasions when he is on the floor with Omer Asik.

“There’s a whole lot of season left,” Jrue Holiday said. “There’s still half the season left. So, people have to step up and we’ve got to come together even more.”

There’s more this morning from the Southwest Division:

  • The injury to Cousins may alter the Pelicans‘ future in several ways, Kushner writes in a separate story. The immediate and most obvious decision is whether to trade for another big man, with Enes Kanter, Brook Lopez and DeAndre Jordan among the possible names who might be available. The next choice is how to handle Cousins’ free agency this summer. Sources tell Kushner that New Orleans was planning to offer a max deal worth about $175MM over five years, but that’s far from certain now with Cousins projected to be sidelined for six to 10 months, then facing an uncertain future once he recovers. The injury may also affect the status of GM Dell Demps and coach Alvin Gentry, who were both on shaky ground coming into the season. They appeared to be safe with the Cousins-Davis tandem meshing well and the Pelicans on their way to a playoff appearance, but a late-season collapse could signal the end for both in New Orleans.
  • Grizzlies point Mike Conley, who will have season-ending heel surgery, had been considering the procedure for a long time before he and the team decided it was necessary about a week ago, relays Ronald Tillery of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. “He always knew he could have done this. He wanted to avoid it,” said his father and agent, Mike Conley Sr. “It wasn’t like he saw somebody and they said he needed to do it. He didn’t want to be out four or five months this season if he could avoid it. But he’ll be back at top shape in five months.”
  • The Spurs expect injured forward Rudy Gay to return after the All-Star break, according to Jabari Young of The San Antonio Express-News. Gay, who has missed the past 15 games with bursitis in his heel, was hoping to start playing again next week, but after consulting with doctors the decision was made to be cautious.

Latest On DeMarcus Cousins’ Season-Ending Injury

Pelicans center DeMarcus Cousins suffered a season-ending rupture of his left Achilles tendon in Friday’s win over the Rockets. The injury occurred with seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, a game where Cousins notched his second triple-double in three games with 15 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists.

Cousins will undergo surgery to repair the tendon as soon as possible and his estimated recovery period is 6 to 10 months, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter).

The loss of Cousins is especially difficult for a Pelicans team that has won its last four games and currently occupies the sixth seed in the Western Conference with a 27-21 record.

“I feel horrible for him,” Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry said after Friday’s victory. “Everything that he’s done, and what he’s tried to do for us this year and what he’s made himself and the improvements in all areas that he’s made on and off the court, has just been great. I don’t want that to happen to a guy that’s trying to better himself.”

In 48 games, Cousins, who was selected to be on Team LeBron for the 2018 NBA All-Star game, averaged 25.4 PPG, 12.9 RPG and 5.2 APG.

There has been speculation that Cousins’ injury may lead New Orleans to sell at the deadline despite the team’s playoff positioning. However, Wojnarowski tweets that the team will look to acquire talent as the February 8 trade deadline nears.

As for Cousins, the 27-year-old is set to hit unrestricted free agency at the end of the season. The injury ends Cousins’ hopes of landing a max contract in free agency and casts doubt on his ability to play at the same level once he recovers. ESPN’s Kevin Pelton examined four major storylines — including the big man’s offseason value — to monitor following Cousins’ career-altering injury.

A season that had the promise of being Cousins’ first taste of postseason basketball is over and the Pelicans will need to regroup as a club to keep the playoff hope alive.

DeMarcus Cousins Diagnosed With Torn Achilles

10:20pm: The initial diagnosis is that Cousins has torn his Achilles, Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports tweets.

9:59pm: There’s significant fear within the Pelicans organization that big man DeMarcus Cousins has seriously injured his Achilles, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets.

Per TNT’s David Aldridge, the forward will undergo an MRI to determine the severity of the injury.

Cousins went down holding the area in the final minute of the team’s Friday night contest and needed to be supported into the locker room.

In the aforementioned tweet, Wojnarowski adds that a source told him it “does not look good”.

Video of the injury, courtesy of NBA TV on Twitter.

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