After having offseason surgery for a torn left ACL he suffered playing in a summer pick-up game, DeMarcus Cousins was expected to miss the entire 2019-20 season. Now, that may not be the case, as ESPN’s Dave McMenamin is reporting that the Lakers have not ruled out the possibility of Cousins returning at some point this season.
“We’ve not closed the door on that,” Vogel said Sunday before the Lakers played the Charlotte Hornets. “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.”
Cousins signed a one-year, $3.5 million with the Lakers this summer, another prove-it deal after he did the same with the Warriors last season in an effort to show he’s still worth a big-money contract somewhere. Cousins never really got the chance to show he was right with Golden State, returning late in the regular season and then hurting his quad in the first round of the playoffs. He came back in the Finals, but wasn’t 100 percent.
The Lakers signed Cousins to pair with former Pelicans teammate Anthony Davis, who doesn’t like playing center and wants another big man next to him, and obviously the two have a certain chemistry having played together in New Orleans. After Cousins went down, the Lakers signed Dwight Howard, and have since applied for and been granted a $1.75 million DPE (disabled played exception), which they have to use by March 10th.
If the Lakers were to use that DPE and Cousins then worked his way back into playing shape, he would still be eligible to return. Who knows if Cousins, who will have missed significant portions of the last three seasons with two major injuries (ruptured Achilles and a torn ACL), would be of any real benefit to the Lakers. He could be a potential trade candidate in certain scenarios.
In terms of recovery timelines for torn ACLs, the typical time frame is 9-12 months. Cousins has surgery in late August. Do the math, and the nine-month mark would be late May — around the time of the conference finals, should the Lakers make it that far. Perhaps he could be a playoff spark if he wanted to risk returning at the front of of the normal recovery timeline, but it’s hard to imagine him being in any condition to truly contribute at a conference-finals intensity level. It seems unlikely, but the Lakers aren’t ruling it out.