- DeMarcus Cousins is out indefinitely with a torn quadriceps, potentially his second season-ending injury in two years.
- Cousins signed with the Golden State Warriors for one year, $5.7 million to repair his image and value after a torn Achilles ended his 2017-18 season.
- Cousins’ latest injury now cuts short his time in the playoffs to prove himself and will likely hurt his market again this offseason.
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For the second year in a row, DeMarcus Cousins has suffered a serious injury that could end his season early.
Cousins tore his left quadriceps in Game 2 of the Golden State Warriors first-round series against the Los Angeles Clippers. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Tuesday that the Warriors feared it would be season-ending, but the team later announced that they are still evaluating the seriousness of the injury and that he was out indefinitely.
If past injuries are any indication, it will likely end Cousins’ season. Tony Parker suffered a torn quadriceps in 2016-17 that kept him out for eight months.
Cousins had been on the court for just three months after rehabbing from a torn Achilles that ended his season last year.
Cousins’ torn Achilles came before he hit the free agent market in 2018 as one of the best free agents available. Torn Achilles tendons are famously difficult to return from, and Cousins’ injury squashed his value.
ESPN’s Zach Lowe reported that some teams had a “No Cousins” policy before the injury. According to Lowe, Cousins’ offers may have been for an annual salary for the mid-level exception – $8.6 million – for multiple years. Lowe reported Cousins’ camp was shopping one-year, $15 million offers to teams but didn’t have takers. He instead signed a one-year, $5.7 million contract with the Golden State Warriors
The gamble cost him money up front, but many thought it was a wise risk. Cousins could ease his way back onto the court for the dominant Warriors, prove he could play within a system, earn playoff and perhaps championship success, then hit the open market again.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr has even openly said that it would be a one-year marriage because the Warriors could not re-sign Cousins this coming offseason for his desired price.
Instead, Cousins’ plan has been ripped out from underneath him. Cousins played well in spurts for the Warriors this season, but was still finding his footing in the Warriors system/
The playoffs were supposed to be the big test. Optimists of Cousins’ fit in Golden State saw an opportunity for him to bully smaller opponents, giving the Warriors a low-post presence they’ve never had. Cousins isn’t the strongest defender, but perhaps in the Warriors system, he could prove a capable rim protector. All of that, combined with a championship, could send him back into free agency with an opportunity to re-earn a max contract.
That looks highly unlikely now. Barring a late postseason comeback (for which he’d probably still be physically limited), teams won’t know when Cousins could take the floor next year, and they won’t know if he’ll be the same players when does. Frankly, it wasn’t clear this season if Cousins was the same center who averaged 24-12-3 as a No. 1 option for the Sacramento Kings, though there were glimpses.
Would a team be desperate enough to overpay Cousins? The NBA world has already made suggestions that the Los Angeles Lakers would if they strike out on other top free agents. Even then, the market would likely be reduced enough that the Lakers wouldn’t have to overpay with a max contract.
What some starting centers earned last offseason could be an indication. Jusuf Nurkic re-signed with the Portland Trail Blazers for four years, $53 million. DeAndre Jordan signed with the Dallas Mavericks for two years, $24 million. Dwight Howard signed with the Washington Wizards for two years, $10 million. Brook Lopez signed for one year, $3.1 million.
Cousins isn’t the same as those players – at his best, he’s better than all of them – but none of those players were coming off of two season-ending injuries.
It’s brutal luck for Cousins, who at 28, turning 29 in August, may have to gamble on himself again or settle for a longer contract with a much lower annual salary than previously expected.