At numerous Lakers practices throughout the preseason and start of the regular season, a consistent sight has been injured center DeMarcus Cousins shooting standstill jumpers on an unused basket. He has also been sitting on the team’s bench during their games, despite most assuming he will miss the entire year with a torn ACL.
None of this is incredibly surprising. There was a report during the preseason that the Lakers planned to “integrate” Cousins into their team, and it seems that decision may stem in part from the fact that the Lakers aren’t so certain Cousins won’t return this year, something head coach Frank Vogel admitted to reporters before his team’s third game of the season:
Frank Vogel won't rule out the possibility of DeMarcus Cousins returning at some point this season. Vogel said the Lakers aren't "closing the door" on Cousins perhaps being able to return for the playoffs. https://t.co/FBY8AQSnmL— Ohm Youngmisuk (@NotoriousOHM) October 27, 2019
Vogel is always an optimist when it comes to these sort of prognostications, but there are a few reasons to believe that a return from Cousins may not happen. For one, ACL tears typically take at least a calendar year to heal, something the NBA seemed to indicate it believed was the case here by granting the Lakers a $1.75 million disabled player exception, meaning that the league’s panel of doctors ruled that it was unlikely enough that Cousins would come back this season that they felt comfortable giving the Lakers an extra tool to replace him.
And setting aside the physical unlikelihood that Cousins could return, it also remains to be seen what comes from his pending legal situation. A warrant was issued in Mobile, Alabama for Cousins’ arrest on a misdemeanor domestic violence charge stemming from Cousins allegedly threatened to kill his former girlfriend during a phone call on Aug. 23. TMZ posted audio which they say is Cousins speaking to her.
ESPN reported that Cousins’ former girlfriend “is seeking a restraining order against Cousins after she said in court documents and a police report obtained by TMZ that he threatened her and has previously choked her.” The Lakers and NBA both released statements at the time saying that they were looking into the situation:
Lakers' statement on the @TMZ_Sports report on DeMarcus Cousins: "We are aware of the allegation involving DeMarcus Cousins and, of course, take this claim seriously. We are in the process of gathering information and will reserve further comment at this time."— Ohm Youngmisuk (@NotoriousOHM) August 27, 2019
The NBA/NBPA has a strict Domestic Violence policy that was implemented with the 2017 CBA. Expect a thorough investigation into the allegations. https://t.co/UegYyF7OVq— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) August 27, 2019
It is unknown whether these charges — or any ensuing punishments from the NBA under the domestic violence policy — would complicate Cousins’ return to the court. So much uncertainty on that front makes it seem less likely he’d be able to suit up for the Lakers this year even if he were medically cleared.