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Another major injury for DeMarcus Cousins means another summer of uncertainty awaits


DeMarcus Cousins tore his left quadriceps Monday, the similar leg he has been rehabilitating since rupturing his Achilles’ tendon ultimate season. (Jeff Chiu/AP)

The grand triumph of DeMarcus Cousins’s comeback arrived in early April, when the Golden State Warriors center poured in a season-high 28 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in a blowout win over the Denver Nuggets.

Cousins, still yet to fully recover from a January 2018 Achilles’ tendon tear that sidelined him for a year, gave Denver’s all-star center, Nikola Jokic, more than he could handle. The matchup between the centers was “personal,” Draymond Green said later, and Cousins seemed intent on announcing his return to being one of the league’s top big men. He used textbook post moves, plowed through the paint, broke free on the fast break and drained three-pointers. After he was done making Jokic’s life miserable, Cousins checked out of the game and peered toward Denver’s bench, pretending to strain to see a far-off object.

The obvious implication: Cousins’s competition might as well have been invisible.

That high moment, full of skill and braggadocio, has already become a distant memory, now that the 28-year-old Cousins suffered a torn left quadriceps during Game 2 of a first-round playoff series against the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday, which an MRI exam confirmed Tuesday. Officially, the injury will sideline Cousins indefinitely, but it could wind up ending his postseason — the first of his nine-year career — after just 25 minutes in two games. While Golden State has options as it gathers itself in the wake of the diagnosis, Cousins is back at square one.

The defending champs move forward knowing this: In totality, their lineups with Cousins looked more overwhelming on paper than they did in practice. The mercurial center averaged 16.3 points and 8.2 rebounds as he bonded well with his new teammates, but the Warriors never quite delivered on the “all-star team” hype that accompanied his signing last summer.

Golden State’s net rating was slightly better with Cousins on the bench than it was with him on the court. While less skilled than Cousins, backup Kevon Looney has been the Warriors’ most reliable center because he is more disciplined defensively and uses fewer possessions on offense.

The March signing of Andrew Bogut gives Coach Steve Kerr another passable option in the wake of the injury, and it was reasonable to expect that Cousins’s role was bound to shrink slightly as the playoffs continued. His defensive mobility made for challenges defending the pick and roll in certain matchups, and the Warriors deploy more small-ball lineups, featuring Green at center, in their toughest series.

Cousins will watch these tweaks and adjustments as a ­bystander as his best chance to resuscitate his market value in the short term slips through his grasp. Last summer, the four-time all-star settled for a one-year, $5.3 million contract with the Warriors after he failed to receive a lucrative offer elsewhere. At the time, the prospect of his long-term rehabilitation cooled his market. He turned to the Warriors as a “chess move,” knowing they would be patient with his recovery and offer him an extended postseason run to showcase his skills.

Everything was going to plan, more or less, until Cousins fell to the court Monday night with a noncontact injury and immediately clutched at his left leg in pain. Now, NBA executives interested in signing him are left weighing some grim facts: Cousins’s injuries happened on the same leg, he has missed at least 10 games in six straight seasons, and he hadn’t fully recovered his explosiveness and lift before his most recent injury. Instead of using the playoffs to prove that he was healthy and could contribute to a winning team, Cousins is stuck facing the same questions that dogged him last summer.

While cautious to render a definitive verdict, multiple league executives said they believe that a second consecutive season-ending injury will cost Cousins his shot at a major payday this summer.

“Nothing inflates value more than a strong playoff run,” one executive said. “He hadn’t answered the big questions. Now he’s absent for the final exam.”

The best-case scenario for Cousins, another executive said, had been to establish himself as an X-factor against top-level teams such as the Houston Rockets in the West and the Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors or Boston Celtics from the East. If Cousins could have been a reliable source of low-post offense and a passable defender in those matchups, a lottery team with a hole at center might have been tempted to roll the dice and cast him as a core building block.

“It’s devastating for him,” the executive said. “It’s hard to sell [the owner] on him having a major impact on wins and losses because we still haven’t seen it. He reestablished some of his productivity [and stats], but he’s a hard guy to go to bat for. I’m more worried about his health today than I was yesterday. I could see [Portland Trail Blazers center] Enes Kanter getting [more total money] than Cousins.”

There are a few factors working in Cousins’s favor. First, his injury reportedly will not require surgery, and his restoration length is predicted to be shorter than his Achilles’ rehabilitation. When Golden State signed him ultimate summer season, it did so understanding he may now not play till the all-star smash. That’s now not the case this time.

2d, this 12 months’s elegance of loose agent facilities isn’t overflowing with ability. Boston’s Al Horford, Toronto’s Marc Gasol and Milwaukee’s Brook Lopez are in fascinating environments, so poaching them may well be tough. Nikola Vucevic of the Orlando Magic is sure to generate vital pastime after his first all-star variety, however the different to be had names — DeAndre Jordan, Robin Lopez and Jonas Valanciunas, amongst others — are much less intriguing.

One government warned to not write off Cousins, suggesting that his marketplace may stabilize by way of July, given the loss of to be had megastar energy.

“There aren’t sufficient actual stars to meet all of the groups that need one,” he stated. “Any person may get determined. Dwight Howard did simply high-quality [last summer, getting two years and nearly $11 million in Washington]. He can’t do worse than Dwight.”

The knee-jerk consensus appeared to be that Cousins shall be experiencing deja vu come July, weighing temporary offers from lottery groups and mid-level gives, like Golden State’s, from contenders. Perhaps, he’ll be compelled to “end up it” far and wide once more. This isn’t completely his fault. The NBA’s evolving taste of play has modified the worth and nature of the middle place lately, with many groups favoring flexible defenders who supplement their backcourt ability over do-it-all abilities similar to Cousins.

The Warriors loom as a query mark. Avid gamers and coaches have enthusiastically supported Cousins all season, and the group has proven loyalty to gamers previously. Glance no additional than Bogut, who resurfaced in March after his NBA days looked to be over. Golden State has additionally made some degree to hold further facilities for years to offer protection to itself towards accidents.

But the Warriors have extra urgent issues: Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson shall be loose brokers this summer season, as will Looney. Dealing with the sturdy probability of being a luxurious tax payer, Normal Supervisor Bob Myers should be even handed in filling out his supporting solid. One chance: Golden State helps to keep the band in combination, gives Cousins a aggressive wage of $6.four million with non-bird rights, then makes use of its mid-level exception to focus on any other loose agent. Doing so would lend a hand cope with the Warriors’ loss of intensity — they ranked 28th in bench scoring ultimate season — even though it will run up a large roster invoice. If Durant leaves, Golden State should come to a decision if it is nonetheless in place to soak up Cousins’s well being dangers.

For Cousins, who leaned closely on his circle of relatives as he recuperated ultimate 12 months, there’s a silver lining as he starts any other prolonged rehabilitation: He is aware of, needless to say, that he has already survived worse.

Learn extra:

Warriors left shaken by way of DeMarcus Cousins’ damage and Clippers’ report comeback

Document Rivers says a stranger returned just about $2,000 he had dropped in the street

Stephen Curry’s pregame warm-u.s.incorporated a humorous Tiger Woods tribute

LeBron James says he might settle for Charles Barkley’s invitation to sign up for TNT studio display

Zion Williamson announces for NBA draft to ‘pursue my subsequent dream’

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