Los Angeles Lakers center DeMarcus Cousins tore his ACL in August. Usually that type of injury takes about 10 months to recover from, which would peg June as the earliest possible return date for Cousins by most conventional medical estimates.
So essentially, for Cousins to suit up, the Lakers would likely have to make the Finals and be okay with a player coming off of two serious injuries in the same leg suiting up with very little practice time, and hoping he could make an impact in a series they may not even get to.
In spite of all that — or perhaps as a result of it — the Lakers have continued to insist there is a chance of Cousins suiting up for the team. Earlier this season, head coach Frank Vogel said the team wouldn’t close the door on Cousins coming back, and more recently said his return was “still a possibility.”
Vogel tripled-down on the sentiment during his media availability at All-Star weekend in Chicago, telling reporters that Cousins is actually “on track” to be ready for some unspecified point during the postseason (via the Lakers’ YouTube Channel):
“He’s on track to get healthy by the playoffs, and we’ll have to see where he’s at with rhythm, and conditioning, and timing and all that stuff. But there is a possibility he returns this season, yes.”
“A possibility” is less strong phrasing than the front part of that sentence, but it continues to be notable how much the Lakers don’t want to rule out the chance of Cousins coming back, no matter how unlikely the odds of that actually happening are.
But don’t take my word for it. Take that of the actual doctor that we have on staff who I consulted earlier this season:
“The research shows that the average return to play in the NBA after an ACL rupture is roughly 10 months, which would be a return date in June for Cousins,” said Dr. Rajpal Brar, who has a doctorate in Physical Therapy and does injury analysis for this website, the Laker Film Room YouTube Channel, his 3CB Performance business and other platforms.
“In a normal case with a player who didn’t have a significant injury history like Cousins, I’d say there’s a reasonable chance the player could beat that timeline and be back sooner, potentially in May for the start of playoffs,” Brar said, but due to the factors mentioned above and others, Cousins is not a normal case.
“However, Cousins is coming off an Achilles rupture and partial quadriceps rupture on the same leg so, if anything, that return timeline will tend to get pushed out past 10 months, rather than sooner. Further underlying that point is the fact that Cousins ruptured the ACL on a simple maneuver — literally pushing off that leg for a layup — which hints at significant underlying deficits,” Brar said.
While he rehabs, Cousins has still been a public presence around the team. While he hasn’t spoken to the media, he’s often in full view, shooting at practice or before games, and sitting on the bench to watch his teammates play.
Still, forget all the health factors listed above, even if we probably shouldn’t. Cousins was talented, no doubt, but would it really be wise for him to risk another injury by rushing back for a team he hasn’t played for all year, given his history of issues in this leg? Are the Lakers sure that a rusty version Cousins can even help them given the production they’re getting out of JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard?
Don’t get me wrong: I understand why the Lakers aren’t ruling Cousins out. They likely want to justify keeping him on the roster, and not damage his value further than his injury history already has. But while it’s one thing for them to say it, it’s another for us to ignore all context and believe it. I get that most fans were excited about his addition in July, but it’s just worth remembering that Cousins suiting back up and risking another injury before what could be one of his final chances to get signed in free agency just doesn’t make a ton of sense, no matter what anyone with the team says until then.