DeMarcus Cousins

Gentry: Pelicans Organization Wants Cousins Back

Everyone in the Pelicans organization wants DeMarcus Cousins to re-sign with the club, coach Alvin Gentry told ESPN’s Mike Triplett and other reporters on Monday.

The Pelicans made the playoffs despite Cousins’ season-ending Achilles tendon injury in January and then advanced to the conference semifinals by sweeping the Trail Blazers in the opening round. That hasn’t changed the team’s desire to retain the Twin Towers pairing of Cousins and Anthony Davis. Cousins is an unrestricted free agent this summer.

“I don’t really talk about free agency. But the bottom line is that obviously we’d like to have him back on our team,” Gentry said. “Anyone that thinks you’re better having a guy that averaged [big numbers] not on your team is really kind of not in tune to what it takes to win in this league. So there’s just so many factors that enter into it. But there’s not one single person, player or coach or in the basketball ops department or ownership that doesn’t want him back.”

Cousins indicated in an extensive interview last week that he hadn’t spoken with anyone in the front office “in awhile.” That hinted at a potential disconnect between the two parties, or even that the Pelicans might let him walk without an offer.

Gentry’s comments debunked that notion. Cousins did say in the same interview he was interested in re-signing with them, though he’d let the process play itself out.

Whether the Pelicans or any other team offers Cousins a max contract remains a mystery, given that Cousins is coming off a major injury, along with his reputation as one of the league’s most temperamental players. The Pelicans reportedly had internal discussions about offering Cousins a two- or three-year contract worth less than the max. It’s also expected that most of the teams with significant cap space this summer won’t pursue him.

Combine Notes: Porter, Bamba, Young, Hutchison

The Clippers have their eyes on Michael Porter Jr. and are hoping to use their picks at No. 12 and 13 to trade up in the draft, according to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. The Missouri forward, who missed almost the entire season with a back injury, could give L.A. a reliable scorer in the frontcourt. O’Connor notes that team owner Steve Ballmer stopped his session with the media at the combine to listen to Porter’s interview.

Porter, who is projected at No. 8 to the Cavaliers in the latest mock draft by ESPN’s Jonathan Givony, told reporters he had combine interviews scheduled with 13 teams, including the Clippers. He also stated that he believes he’s “the best player in the draft.”

L.A.’s challenge is finding a team willing to trade down. O’Connor cites the Grizzlies, Mavericks, Magic and Bulls — who hold picks four through seven — as teams in need of multiple assets. However, it’s not clear if any of them is willing to move back in the draft, and O’Connor has heard that Memphis is planning to keep its No. 4 pick. The Grizzlies are looking for size, O’Connor adds, but are the only team in the top eight not to ask for a meeting with Texas center Mo Bamba.
O’Connor’s recap on the combine is filled with interesting tidbits. Here are a few of the highlights:
  • Bamba believes he could form a dangerous combination with Mavericks point guard Dennis Smith Jr., but Dallas may not be interested. With Dirk Nowitzki returning for another season, the Mavs will try to rebuild quickly to put a contending team around him. That means targeting a free agent big man such as DeAndre Jordan, DeMarcus Cousins or Julius Randle, which would make a scorer like Porter more attractive in the draft. O’Connor notes that Cousins’ agent, Jarinn Akana, has strong ties to the Mavericks. Of his 12 clients, five have played in Dallas and another was with its G League affiliate, Jaleel Cousins, who is DeMarcus’ brother.
  • The Knicks are interested in Oklahoma point guard Trae Young if he falls to the ninth pick. They see him as a good fit alongside last year’s first-rounder, Frank Ntilikina, who can take on the tougher defensive matchup and help space the floor for Young to drive to the basket. However, the Magic at No. 6 and the Cavaliers at No. 8 both need point guards, so Young could be off the board before New York’s selection.
  • It still isn’t clear who made a draft promise to Boise State forward Chandler Hutchison, but O’Connor was told he won’t drop into the late first round. Hutchison, who is expected to be taken between the 18th and 24th pick, held workouts for the Timberwolves and Bulls before withdrawing from the combine. It may or may not be a clue, but Hutchison’s agent, Mark Bartelstein of Priority Sports, is a friend of Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf and has represented many Chicago players.
  • Kostas Antetokounmpo showed a lot of similarities to his older brother Giannis Antetokounmpo in his combine workouts. Kostas, 2o, could be a second-round pick and may be a valuable asset for a team to have when Giannis hits free agency in 2021.

DeMarcus Cousins Talks Achilles, Pelicans, Free Agency

Speaking to Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated, DeMarcus Cousins expressed optimism about his recovery from his season-ending Achilles injury, suggesting that he thinks he can be ready to go for the start of training camp. While that’s hardly a lock, Cousins said his own personal goal is to be able to play in the 2018/19 regular season opener.

Of course, given his upcoming unrestricted free agency, it’s not yet clear what uniform Cousins would be wearing if he makes it back for opening night. Asked about his free agent decision, Cousins said he won’t rush the process, and plans to make “the absolute best decision for DeMarcus Cousins.” The big man added that his ideal landing spot would be a contending team where he’d “be appreciated.”

Spears’ conversation with Cousins is worth checking out in full, and includes his explanation for why he unfollowed the Pelicans on Instagram. Here are a few other highlights from the veteran center:

On the idea that the Pelicans were better without him:

“It’s silly. I don’t think anyone in that locker room believes that. Not to take any credit from my team, but they stepped up, and that’s what you expect from your teammate when adversity hits and that’s exactly what they did. I’m super proud, and I give them all the credit in the world for being able to come together and make that happen.”

On how good the Pelicans looked just before his Achilles injury happened:

“It was scary, and at that moment we thought that we could battle with any team in the NBA. It didn’t matter. It’s crazy because I remember [Rajon] Rondo saying, ‘Man, it’s clicking.’ And the way we were meshing together, everybody was flowing together. I can remember him talking about it saying we’re clicking, it’s looking so good out here and, you know, it happens.”

On whether he’s interested in re-signing with the Pelicans:

“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.”

On the level of interest from the Pelicans’ side:

“I know for a fact my teammates want me back there, but you know it’s a business. The people in the front office are going to make the best decision for the team or whatever they feel is the best decision. You know, we’ll see what happens. I honestly can’t answer that question, I haven’t spoken to the front office in a while, so we’ll see what happens.”

On playing in New Orleans:

“The city of New Orleans is super dope. The Southern hospitality is through the roof. Only a Southerner would really know what that Southern hospitality is like. It’s genuine love down there. They are crazy about their sports teams, the Pelicans and the Saints. Whenever I was out and about I was always shown love. … I appreciated the time I did have there, if it is the end. But if it’s not, I can’t wait to be back around.”

Pelicans Notes: Rondo, Mirotic, Cousins, Benson, Gentry

At 32 years old, Rajon Rondo is not a building block for an organization, but he’s an experienced and valuable veteran who plays well on the game’s biggest stage. Although Rondo’s future with the Pelicans is uncertain as he heads for unrestricted free agency this summer, the point guard spoke highly of the team in his exit press conference, William Guillory of The Times-Picayune writes.

“We’ll see how it goes,” Rondo said. “I love this group of guys. It’s a group of good guys. I love playing for coach (Alvin) Gentry. We’ll see how it goes. … This group of guys is special. I think we obviously went up against the defending champs. We played extremely well and we’ve got a lot to learn from. You play a team like that, you’ve got no option but to get better.”

During the first two rounds of the postseason, Rondo averaged 10.3 PPG and 12.2 APG for the Pelicans, living up to the “Playoff Rondo” moniker he has earned during his career. Rondo was solid during the regular season as well, posting totals of 8.3 PPG and 8.2 APG. During his press conference with reporters, general manager Dell Demps said that re-signing Rondo will be a critical part of the offseason, given his leadership abilities, tweets Scott Kushner of The Advocate.

Check out more Pelicans notes down below:

  • Nikola Mirotic joined the Pelicans in a midseason trade from the Bulls and played well, averaging 14.6 PPG and 8.2 RPG in 30 games for New Orleans. He is only under contract for one more season, but hopes to remain with the Pelicans long-term, per William Guillory of The Times-Picayune. “No doubt,” Mirotic said. “This has been like a family to me and I’m looking forward. This is the place I want to be.”
  • In their respective pressers, Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry and general manager Dell Demps both said they want to re-sign DeMarcus Cousins, who is recovering from a torn Achilles and will hit unrestricted free agency, tweets Scott Kushner of The Advocate. “In a perfect world we would like to have (Cousins) back,” Demps said.
  • Gentry’s option for 2018/19 was picked up by the Pelicans after the team defeated the Trail Blazers in the first round of the postseason. The head coach expressed his own desire to remain in New Orleans going forward, and advocated for new owner Gayle Benson, who took over after the death of her husband, Tom Benson. “Mrs. Benson is going to make this thing a success,” Gentry said (per Scott Kushner of The Advocate). “She’s 100% committed to doing everything we possibly can to making this a championship team. As long as that’s the case, I love being here.”

Pelicans Notes: Offseason, Rondo, Cousins, Okafor

While the Pelicans’ season came to an end on Tuesday night in Golden State, there’s reason for optimism in New Orleans going forward, writes Ron Higgins of The Times-Picayune. As Higgins details, head coach Alvin Gentry said after the game that he believes the Pelicans are “headed in the right direction as a franchise,” praising Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday as long-term anchors.

The 2017/18 season was also one of redemption for general manager Dell Demps, says Jeff Duncan of The Times-Picayune. Demps was believed to be on the hot seat a year ago, but kept his job and saw the roster he built blossom during the eighth year of his tenure in New Orleans.

Demps’ decision to sign Rajon Rondo to a one-year, $3.3MM deal last offseason was one of his best moves in recent memory, as Duncan notes. In Higgins’ view, re-signing Rondo to a new contract in the coming months should be at or near the top of Demps’ list of priorities. It’s imperative that the team bring back at least one – or both – of Rondo and DeMarcus Cousins in order to continue its uphill climb, Higgins contends.

Here’s more on the Pelicans as their offseason gets underway:

  • Asked after the game about whether he wants the Pelicans to re-sign Cousins, Gentry suggested it “goes without saying” that he’d want the big man back. “That’s something we’ll discuss,” Gentry said, per Ben Golliver of SI.com (video link). “The guy is averaging 26 points and 12 points, you’d like to have him on your team.”
  • The Cousins situation will be the biggest question for the Pelicans to answer this summer, ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Insider link) writes in his preview of the team’s offseason. As Marks outlines, letting Cousins walk wouldn’t open up cap space, and moving him in a sign-and-trade probably isn’t realistic, so the Pels should make a strong effort to re-sign him. However, New Orleans will also have to be careful not to overpay a player coming off a major Achilles injury, especially given the luxury-tax implications.
  • In his end-of-season look at New Orleans’ next moves, Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer suggests that a Cousins/Otto Porter trade would make sense for both the Pelicans and the Wizards. However, as Marks details in his article, a straight-up swap of the two wouldn’t work within CBA rules, so some maneuvering would be required.
  • Having returned to the NBA this season following a layoff of nearly five years, veteran center Emeka Okafor is eager to continue his career in 2018/19, per Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated. “I want to play as long as I can,” Okafor said. “We’ll see with New Orleans. … It’s sports. You don’t know. I know my profession. I know anything can happen. But I am very happy to be here. I’m having a great time, and it feels like home.”

Heat Notes: Whiteside, Riley, Winslow, Dragic

The Pelicans may be a team to watch as the Heat try to trade Hassan Whiteside this summer, according to Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. After DeMarcus Cousins‘ Achilles injury, New Orleans is having second thoughts about offering him a max contract covering five years, preferring a two- or three-year deal at a reduced amount. If that impasse can’t be resolved, Jackson proposes a sign-and-trade involving Whiteside and other players, possibly including Justise Winslow.

Jackson, who notes that there’s strong support in the Miami front office to move on from Whiteside, examines a few other options, stating that the Trail Blazers and Mavericks planned to contact Whiteside when he was a free agent two years ago, but may be less interested now.

Another consideration is whether the Heat want to open up cap room for 2019 by trading Whiteside, who has two seasons and $52MM left on his contract, for an expiring deal. Jackson adds that Miami has to unload Whiteside and at least one more significant salary to be able to compete for a stellar free agent class.

There’s more tonight from Miami:

  • If the Heat can’t find a trading partner for Whiteside, team president Pat Riley indicated he will intervene in any future disputes between his center and coach Erik Spoelstra, Jackson adds in the same story. Riley also stated that Whiteside will need to adjust his game to fit the modern style. “You’ve got these quintessential sort of centers that are being forced to play a certain game because the game has changed and there’s only one or two or three teams that can play that game,” Riley said, “because three or four transformative players can make that game effective. So, how do we make him effective?”
  • Among the Heat’s many offseason decisions is whether to offer an extension to Winslow or let him become a restricted free agent in 2019, writes Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. After missing most of 2016/17 after shoulder surgery, Winslow bounced back with a solid year, playing 68 games and putting together a strong showing in the playoffs. “I’m in a much better state mentally than I was a year ago,” he said. “But none of these things are easy, dealing with stuff throughout this year, just the mental aspect of the NBA is tough and you’ve seen a lot of guys speaking out about it.”
  • Although no one on the Heat roster is guaranteed to be with the team in the fall, point guard Goran Dragic told Riley that he definitely wants to stay in Miami, relays the Associated Press“This is where I want to be,” said Dragic, who has another season left on his contract, plus an option year. “Everything here, it’s the way I want it.”

Pelicans Notes: Holiday, Davis, Cousins, Gentry

A primary factor in the Pelicans’ success so far this season – which now includes a sweep of the higher-seeded Trail Blazers in the first round of the Western Conference Playoffs – has been the stellar play of combo guard Jrue Holiday, writes Matt John of Basketball Insiders.

Having been somewhat hampered by injuries and personal matters since the Pelicans traded for him in the summer of 2013, Holiday has been a revelation so far this postseason, having increased his scoring output from 19.0 PPG in the regular season – a career-high – to 27.8 PPG in the playoffs, while also playing stifling defense on Portland’s All-Star point guard Damian Lillard.

Yet, the advanced statistics demonstrate that Holiday has actually been playing at an All-Star level all season long, regardless of whether the casual basketball fan realized it or not. For example, the Pelicans had an offensive rating of 108.9 points per 100 possessions when he was the on the court – would have ranked 7th – compared to 104.4 points per 100 possessions when he was off – would have ranked 21st.

Holiday was even more important to the Pelicans on the defensive end of the floor, where the team had a defensive rating of 103.3 per 100 possessions when Holiday was on the court – would have ranked 5th – compared to 112.3 off the court – would have ranked dead last, 30th overall.

Holiday’s net rating was also higher than that of Pelicans MVP-candidate teammate Anthony Davis, and his 3.81 Real Plus-Minus ranked ninth among point guards, which put him ahead of Kyrie Irving, John Wall, and Goran Dragic, all of whom made the All-Star team this year, albeit in the Eastern Conference.

Holiday will look to continue his stellar play on Saturday when the Pelicans head to Oakland to take on the Warriors in Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals.

There’s more out of New Orleans this evening:

  • With Davis under contract through the 2020/21 season and not eager to leave town, the Pelicans are on track to becoming the next small-market success, writes Brett Martel of The Associated Press.
  • In a piece from Christian Boutwell of The Advocate, injured Pelicans’ big man DeMarcus Cousins says he “couldn’t be happier for this team” after a sweep of the Trail Blazers. Cousins also touched on his rehab for a torn left Achilles, saying “I’m improving each and every day and I’m improving a pretty rapid pace as well. That keeps my energy high, my positive vibes going.”
  • As we relayed Monday night, the Pelicans have informed head coach Alvin Gentry that his team option for next season will be picked up, thereby all but guaranteeing that Gentry will coach the Pelicans during the 2018/19 season.

Latest On DeMarcus Cousins

With the Pelicans thriving so far in the postseason without DeMarcus Cousins, ESPN’s Zach Lowe is the latest to look ahead to the big man’s upcoming free agency, exploring just how hard New Orleans will push to re-sign him. While there was once a consensus around the NBA that the small-market Pelicans, not wanting to let Cousins get away, would put a max deal on the table even after his Achilles injury, that’s far less certain now, Lowe writes.

Here are a few updates and notes from Lowe on what could be one of this offseason’s most interesting free agencies:

  • The Pelicans have internally discussed the possibility of offering Cousins a two- or three-year contract worth less than the max, sources tell Lowe. The ESPN.com scribe doesn’t think that sort of offer would go over well with Cousins’ camp, but notes that New Orleans has a good amount of leverage, given the veteran center’s health — not to mention the lack of teams around the NBA with sizable cap room.
  • Sources tell Lowe that most of the teams with max-level cap space aren’t expected to pursue Cousins. Some clubs are worried about his “baggage,” and he wouldn’t make much sense for a rebuilding team, since it will likely take him a full season to recover from his Achilles tear.
  • Lowe identifies the Lakers and Mavericks as two wild cards for Cousins. However, he notes that the Lakers could use their cap room to land other stars or roll it over to 2019. As for the Mavs, if they go hard after a restricted free agent like Julius Randle or Aaron Gordon, they probably wouldn’t be in the mix for Cousins.
  • The Wizards, Trail Blazers, Clippers, Raptors, Bucks, and Heat are a few of the teams Lowe mentions as possible landing spots if the Pelicans want to sign-and-trade Cousins, but he acknowledges that none would be a perfect match — and some are extreme long shots.
  • With a four- or five-year max offer for Cousins seemingly unlikely, Lowe speculates that a third year could be the “inflection point” in the bidding for the All-Star big man. If one team is willing to do a fully or partially guaranteed third year, while another club wants to do a deal more like Paul Millsap‘s with the Nuggets (where the third year is a team option), that could be the difference, Lowe writes.

Southwest Notes: Ginobili, Spurs, Pelicans, Nowitzki

While the Warriors would have liked to close out the Spurs on Sunday afternoon and start preparing for the second round, head coach Steve Kerr admitted that it’s hard not to enjoy watching Manu Ginobili continue to have success at age 40. As Michael C. Wright of ESPN.com details, Kerr said after Sunday’s game that he’d like to see Ginobili continue his playing career.

“I think he should come back two more years,” Kerr said. “I smiled when he made that corner three right in front of us at the end of the game. It was just so typical Manu: [40] years old and 16 points, and hits the clinching three. He’s Manu. That’s what he does. I know he’s old because he was my teammate, and I’m old as dirt. So, if I played with him, he must be old.”

While Ginobili will have a decision to make this offseason on whether or not to keep playing, for now he can look ahead to Game 5 — the Spurs will aim to pull out another win over the Dubs on Tuesday to further extend the series.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • The Spurs‘ offseason hasn’t started yet, but it figures to be an eventful one, as Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News writes. In addition to figuring out whether Ginobili will be back, the team will also have to address the futures of longtime San Antonio mainstays Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard. Parker will be an unrestricted free agent, while Leonard’s long-term future with the franchise has been called into question due to reported tension between his camp and the Spurs.
  • No team has been more impressive so far in the postseason than the Pelicans, prompting Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer to explore how DeMarcus Cousins may or may not fit into the equation in New Orleans next season and beyond. Cousins, recovering from an Achilles injury, is an unrestricted free agent this summer.
  • Dirk Nowitzki, who intends to return in 2018/19 for his 21st season with the Mavericks, provided an update over the weekend on his surgically repaired left ankle. Nowitzki will have the stitches removed today as his rehab progresses. Dwain Price of Mavs.com has the details.

Pelicans Notes: Defense, Cousins, Mirotic

The Pelicans have the Trail Blazers against the ropes in their first-round playoff series thanks largely in part to their mid-season growth as a defensive force. The Pels have locked in on that side of the ball out of necessecity, William Guillory of The Times-Picayune writes.

Prior to the season-ending injury that sidelined DeMarcus Cousins, the Pelicans were an offense first team. Without the imposing superstar frontcourt, however, the team has had to find new ways to win.

The Pelicans have had the fourth best defensive rating in the NBA since February 1, not long after Cousins went down. Before that point, however, they ranked 23rd.

There’s more out of New Orleans:

  • Injured big man DeMarcus Cousins sat on the sidelines when the Pelicans beat the Trail Blazers in Game 3 of their first-round series yesterday. As Mike Triplett of ESPN writes, the center received a predictable standing ovation.
  • After coming over to the Pelicans in a mid-season trade, Nikola Mirotic is raising his game. “He’s just been locked in, our guys really have a lot of confidence in him,” head coach Alvin Gentry told William Guillory of The Times-Picayune. “I think he’s in a good place now. He’s well aware of where he fits in with this team and what he’s capable of doing. It’s not just him shooting the ball, he’s made a lot of really good plays and some nice cuts.
  • In three playoff games this spring, 32-year-old Rajon Rondo is averaging 12.7 points and 12.3 assists per game. This isn’t the first time the crafty point guard has thrived in the postseason, something that ESPN’s NBA Twitter account was happy to point out.