Los Angeles Lakers center DeMarcus Cousins is likely to miss the entire season with a torn ACL. Given that the team was granted a $1.75 million Disabled Player Exception that means that the NBA itself ruled that it’s unlikely Cousins will return this year.
Still, that apparently doesn’t mean Cousins won’t be around the team. According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, the Lakers are planning to keep Cousins feeling like he’s still part of the organization:
The Lakers want to integrate center DeMarcus Cousins back into the team’s culture, and he is expected to be around the roster during the LeBron James-led minicamp in Las Vegas this week, league sources said.
If this report is true — and Charania is as plugged-in as they come, so there is little reason to believe it isn’t — then this decision would seem to at least somewhat call into question whatever “culture” the Lakers’ are trying to “integrate” Cousins in to.
Cousins was accused of making verbal threats to his former girlfriend in August, leading police to issue a warrant for his arrest on misdemeanor domestic violence charges. There have been no updates on the situation since then as the legal process plays out, but the Lakers welcoming back a player who has been accused of saying the things Cousins is accused of is a pretty bad look for the team.
Now, it’s fair to mention that there are practical reasons for not cutting Cousins outright. The Lakers could be hoping to use his salary as ballast for a trade, or could not want to upset his close friend and soon-to-be unrestricted free agent Anthony Davis. However, the former doesn’t require tacitly endorsing Cousins by bringing him back around the team, and the latter is a pragmatic but somewhat troubling choice.
Such a “culture” is made even more potentially problematic by the way the team has welcomed Jason Kidd with open arms, making him the highest-paid assistant coach in the NBA despite his own checkered legal and personal history.
This isn’t to say that people don’t deserve second chances, or the opportunity to be cleared of allegations. It’s just that the latter hasn’t happened with Cousins, and the former usually requires a combination of time passed and some level of public contrition, neither of which exists here.
This Lakers team is supposed to finally be the good one, the one that’s fun to support after years of struggles in the NBA’s basement, but stuff like this certainly doesn’t make them easier to root for.