Clippers to Make Big Decision on Cousins, Roster Spot

Clippers to Make Big Decision on Cousins, Roster Spot


DeMarcus Cousins

Today is the day for Los Angeles Clippers center DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins. With his second 10-day contract coming to a close, L.A. will need to decide whether to sign the 6-foot-10 big man for the remainder of the season or let him go.

Even with news that injured center Serge Ibaka is making progress and could return to action relatively soon, most indications point to the Clips keeping Cousins. But even if they don’t, no one can say that Boogie didn’t make the decision a tough one.

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Over the Clippers’ last three games (all wins), Cousins averaged 9.3 points and 8.0 rebounds in just 14.3 minutes of floor time. On Friday, versus the Houston Rockets, he shot 5-for-7 from the field and 1-for-1 from three. He blocked one shot and only committed one turnover, which was a pleasant turnaround from the five he committed against Memphis two days earlier.

“We’re getting flashes of vintage Boogie,” said star forward Paul George on Wednesday. “What will be most impressive about his game is that he automatically draws double teams. He’s instant offense for us, dump the ball down there for him and he’s a playmaker.”

A Historic Triple-Double and a Historic Fall

“Vintage Boogie,” as George put it, is in reference to Cousins’ earlier years, when he was considered one of if not the premier big man in the NBA.

On January 22, 2018, in a double-overtime victory over the Chicago Bulls, Cousins, then playing for the New Orleans Pelicans, put up 44 points, 10 assists and 23 rebounds in 51-plus minutes.

At the time, according to ESPN, Boogie was only the 10th player in NBA history to reach or go north of 40 points, 10 assists and 23 rebounds in a game. Tenth. Ever. And the other guys who did it were named Wilt, Kareem, Elgin and Oscar. (Chamberlain did it six times. Of course he did.)

Four days after the Bulls game though, Cousins ruptured his Achilles tendon. 15 months after that, in April 2018, he tore a quadricep. And then four months after that, in an offseason workout for who was supposed to be his new team, the Los Angeles Lakers, Cousins tore his ACL, ending his season before it began.

It’s hard to overstate the impact those three injuries had on Cousins’ career. Before the Achilles rupture, over seven and a half seasons, the University of Kentucky product averaged 21.5 points, 11 rebounds and 3.2 assists while shooting 46.0% from the field and 33.8% from three. He was a six-time All-Star and twice named All-NBA.

After the injuries, however, Cousins has struggled to simply remain in the league, averaging 12.4 points and 7.5 rebounds over just 55 games before being signed on April 6 to his first Clippers’ 10-day contract.

A Change in Attitude

Aside from showing that he can still play in the league, a factor in whether or not Cousins stays with the Clippers could be, ironically, his attitude. By all accounts, it’s been excellent.

Head coach Ty Lue called him one of the “nicest guys” and says that he’s been great so far with the Clippers. And on Wednesday, star forward Paul George said that Cousins has been “just a great dude to have on this team” and that “his chemistry has been amazing.”

Lue and George’s praise are a big departure from how Cousins was viewed earlier in his career. In seven seasons with the Sacramento Kings, despite his dominance down low, Cousins was seen as a troublemaker both in the locker room and on the floor. According to HoopsHype, he led the league in technical fouls four out of five seasons from 2013-2017 (averaging 17 per year).

And even Kings general manager Vlade Divac, no shrinking violet during his playing days, felt Cousins brought more bad than good. “Winning begins with culture and character matters,” Divac said shortly after trading Cousins to New Orleans in 2017 — when Cousins was averaging 27.8 points, 10.6 rebounds and 4.8 assists.

There’s no better example of Cousins’ change in attitude than when he was cut from the Houston Rockets earlier this season after only 26 games. The Rockets, who are in the midst of a savage rebuilding phase, opted to pay Cousins his $2.3 million for the remainder of the season, despite his money not being guaranteed. Houston simply could’ve said bye-bye without forking over more dough. But, according to The Athletic’s Kelly Iko, the Rockets wanted to reward Cousins for being such a good dude:

“First-year head coach Stephen Silas liked having Cousins around. He routinely praised his intangibles and recognized the offensive potential that even a diminished Cousins could bring to his roster. The big man was popular in the locker room, and a bevy of young players turned to Cousins for advice, perhaps none more than Jae’Sean Tate,” Iko wrote.

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