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Pelicans hesitant to sign DeMarcus Cousins to max deal, Lakers’ interest ‘unclear’

It’s going to be an interesting summer for DeMarcus Cousins.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Minnesota Timberwolves Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Heading into the summer, the Los Angeles Lakers are expected to go forth with their plan of pursuing two max-level free agents and while the two most popular names linked to the Lakers have been Paul George and LeBron James, one name that has flown under the radar is DeMarcus Cousins.

Cousins, a four-time All-Star, will be one of several big names to hit the open market in July, but after rupturing his Achilles tendon in January, he likely won’t have the same number of suitors as he was originally projected to, nor will he get the max deal he was, according to ESPN’s Zach Lowe.

“The Pelicans have broached internally the idea of offering Cousins a two- or three-year deal at less than the max, per sources familiar with the discussions,” Lowe said. “I would not expect that to go over well with Cousins’ camp.”

If the Pelicans won’t offer Cousins the max, surely another team will, right? Not exactly, according to Lowe.

“Only a half-dozen or so teams have max-level space this season, and most won’t pursue Cousins at that level, sources say ... There may be only two suitors among the cap-room brigade: the Mavericks and the Lakers. And L.A.’s interest is unclear. If the Lakers whiff on LeBron and Paul George, they may want to keep their cap room open for 2019 and beyond -- meaning no fat long-term deal for Cousins.”

The Lakers will have roughly $66.4 million to spend on free agents this summer and the center position is an area of need for them, especially because their starting center Brook Lopez will also hit unrestricted free agency in July.

If president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka talked themselves into giving Cousins a full four-year, max deal starting at $30.5 million a year, they would still have room to sign one of George or James. George and Cousins would be in their early-30s at the tail end of their deals, while James would be closer to 40 at 37 years old.

However, coming off of one of the most grueling injuries in all of sports, gambling on Cousins might not be the best route to go for a team that is still trying to get out of bad contract situations. Whatever the case is, expect the Lakers to do their due diligence leading up to July.

You can follow Christian on Twitter @RadRivas.

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