The Los Angeles Lakers desperately need a starting center. DeMarcus Cousins plays center and does so (when healthy) about as well as anyone. That bit about health is important, though, and Cousins might not be back on the court until January or February due to a torn Achilles tendon, and who knows how close he’ll be to his pre-injury self. His health made the market especially harsh for him — so much so that his people had to call teams.
One of those calls was to the Lakers, and Marc Stein of the New York Times reports that when Cousins’ reps called Los Angeles about playing on a similar deal he took with the Golden State Warriors, it didn’t get that very far:
“Word also reached us Monday night that LeBron’s Lakers, after signing Rajon Rondo away from New Orleans and then losing Randle to the Pelicans, had an opportunity to sign Cousins at a one-year price point similar to the one that landed him in Golden State. But I’m told the Lakers passed, clearing the way for the Warriors to infuriate the basketball public yet again.”
Stein later clarified that point more on Twitter, with Zach Lowe of ESPN echoing the Lakers’ lack of interest:
Magic Johnson and Jeanie Buss -- collaborating, I'm told, on all aspects of the Lakers' planning -- want the team to be as competitive as possible next season and thus felt the timing didn't allow for signing a player, however talented, who could miss half the season or more https://t.co/5ZU9kOvg4v— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) July 4, 2018
To my knowledge, they never had serious interest about acquiring Cousins this summer -- even after Kawhi Leonard talks (for now) stalled. https://t.co/d2b80SCMOs— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) July 4, 2018
Before you freak out, just remember what a blown Achilles did to Kobe Bryant — someone who worked harder on his game and body than just about anyone in the history of professional sports. This isn’t to say Boogie doesn’t work hard, but I doubt he works every bit as hard as the borderline-psychotic Kobe. Add to that how much more weight Cousins puts on that Achilles and there’s legitimate concern whether he’ll ever be the same, let alone by the start of this season.
The Lakers can’t go into the next year with JaVale McGee as the best healthy center on the roster. If they had someone better than that, a short-term deal on Cousins makes sense. But as they do not, the money is better-spent on someone like Brook Lopez, who can do a lot of the things Cousins does (though obviously not as well when Boogie is healthy) but without such injury concern hanging over him.
Now, a fair debate is whether the Lakers should’ve focused on Lopez earlier with the money they spent on, say, Lance Stephenson or Rajon Rondo, so that they could gamble on Boogie, but all that is out the window now that Cousins is in Golden State.