When a team has to piece together a roster with as few assets as the Lakers had this offseason thanks to the Anthony Davis trade and their wait for Kawhi Leonard, they have to try to find players who can vastly outplay their value. There are perhaps no players more capable of doing that this year than DeMarcus Cousins given his previous level of talent compared to his one-year, $3.5 million deal.
During a conference call with reporters Friday afternoon, Rob Pelinka was asked about what Cousins brings to the table, and what he’s seen from the 10-year veteran forward/center.
“DeMarcus Cousins, we just couldn’t be more excited about adding him, a player that can pass from the perimeter, can make threes, is a big body that can bang and score in the low post. And just in our conversations with DeMarcus, he seems more motivated than he’s ever been, I think, coming off last year with having the injury in the playoffs,” Pelinka said.
Usually, only organizations that feel confident in their training and medical staff will take chances on players overcoming issues as serious as Cousins' quad injury and prior Achilles tear, but it sounds like Pelinka feels pretty good about where the Lakers are in this regard.
“If you didn’t know, we hired Judy Seto, our Director of Sports Performance. Obviously she has a reputation as being one of the very best in the game, and just being able to have her and her team around players like DeMarcus to bring them back to being the best version of themselves, we’re extremely excited about it,” he said.
Pelinka has firsthand experience with Seto, as she worked personally with his former client Kobe Bryant throughout his career. Kobe was also a borderline psychopath when it came to training and that probably helped, but Seto has one of the better reputations in the field. If Cousins brings that same work ethic, the results could really be impressive.
According to Pelinka, so far, so good — starting with conversations with Cousins’ new teammates.
"You know, it’s interesting. He had conversations with other guys that had committed to playing (Rondo, AD, LeBron) and I was just really impressed with the life journey that DeMarcus has been on and what he’s learned from it,” Pelinka said.
"I just think he’s wanting to come here and just understand even better what it means to sacrifice for a team. What it means to be a part of something that is greater than yourself. I think those are the type of things he was saying.”
Cousins started a bit of a frenzy thanks to some pictures and video of him and how much weight he appears to have lost already, and apparently was the talk of the town while the Lakers were in Las Vegas, according to Pelinka.
Still, at the end of the day, you don’t go through all Cousins has and not gain something from the experience. That appears to be what Pelinka is most excited to see up-close when the team starts working together.
“Every year you come back as a different person, and last year was hard for him because the team he was didn’t win a championship and then he got injured, so that was a year of trial. But I think a lot of times beauty comes out of pain,and hope comes out of brokenness,” Pelinka said.
“I look at him as an X-factor. If he can come back playing in all-star-caliber form, it really raises the bar of our team and what we can do, and I’m just excited with his commitment. He knows actions speak louder than words, and he’s going to show us with his actions. But so far, it’s been really impressive.”
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