Having suffered a torn ACL in August, veteran center DeMarcus Cousins is considered likely to miss the entire 2019/20 season. In fact, the Lakers were granted a disabled player exception after it was determined that the big man is substantially more likely than not to be sidelined through June 15, 2020.
However, according to head coach Frank Vogel, the Lakers haven’t ruled out the possibility that Cousins – who is on a one-year contract – might be able to suit up for the club during a hypothetical playoff run, as ESPN’s Dave McMenamin details.
“We’ve not closed the door on that,” Vogel said. “We’ll just — we’re going to be a wait and see. With these injuries that are long rehabs, you have to see and take it kind of month to month and see where he’s at. But we’ve not closed the door on a possible return for him.”
The fact that the Lakers received a disabled player exception as a result of Cousins’ injury won’t impact his ability to return this season. Whether or not the club uses the DPE by the March 10 deadline, Cousins would still be eligible to return later in the season. The Lakers would lose the DPE if Cousins returns prior to March 10 and it has yet to be used, but that scenario is extremely unlikely.
In fact, it’s hard to imagine Cousins returning at all this season, even if the Lakers win a postseason series or two. As Warriors coach Steve Kerr recently pointed out when he was discussing Klay Thompson‘s ACL tear, those injuries typically call for at least an 11-month recovery timeline. Having endured several major leg injuries in recent years, Cousins might be wise to play it safe with his latest health issue and simply aim to be ready for the 2020/21 season.
In the wake of Cousins’ injury, the Lakers signed Dwight Howard to replace him in the frontcourt, and based on how Howard has looked to start the year, the team may have another reason to play it safe with Cousins. As Bill Oram of The Athletic writes, Howard is coming off a 16-point, 10-rebound, four-block performance against the Hornets, with his return to Los Angeles emerging early as one of the NBA’s most enjoyable fall storylines.
The Lakers will continue to monitor Cousins over the course of the season. If there’s pessimism in January or February about his ability to realistically contribute in the spring, he could be used as a salary-matching piece in a trade or released to open up a roster spot for a player on the buyout market.