Before the Los Angeles Lakers took on the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night, DeMarcus Cousins went about business as usual. The injured center spent time in the locker room with teammates, and then headed out to the court to talk a little trash while doing some on-court shooting and skill work as part of his rehab with Lakers assistant coach Phil Handy.
On its surface, this was all so unexceptional as to not even bear mentioning. The only reason it was a story was that just hours before, it had been reported that the Lakers planned to cut Cousins in order to make room for the recently bought out Markieff Morris.
Cousins didn’t sit on the bench like he normally does during the game, but he was at practice the next day joking around with Rajon Rondo as reporters filed in, and if it seems like he’s proceeding with business as usual, that might be because he has no plans to go anywhere.
On Friday night, Marc Stein of the New York Times reported that Cousins was expected to be allowed to continue to use the Lakers’ facilities to rehab even after the officially cut him from the roster, and according to Shams Charania of The Athletic, Cousins is planning to stick around as well.
Charania also revealed that — despite the Lakers constantly telling the media that Cousins still might return for the playoffs even when that would defy all common medical knowledge about ACL recovery times and common sense for a player with three serious injuries in the same leg — Cousins was never going to return this year (emphasis mine):
“I’m told DeMarcus Cousins plans to remain with the Lakers for the remainder of the season to continue rehabbing his torn ACL. Cousins has been ruled out for the season, sources tell me, but the Lakers have really valued his presence around the locker room, around the front office, around the ownership level. They really enjoyed having DeMarcus Cousins around.”
There are a few potential complicating factors here. Technically the Lakers likely won’t waive Cousins until tomorrow, which is the earliest that Morris could clear waivers and agree to sign with them. After that, Cousins would have to go through the same 48-hour waiver process Morris is in right now.
Provided no team claimed Cousins during that time — and his injury being season-ending is likely being leaked to avoid exactly such a scenario — Cousins would, with the league’s permission, likely be allowed to continue to rehab with the Lakers, which makes sense if he’s done for the year anyway and has some level of comfort with the training staff here.
Now, that change in status would likely keep Cousins from traveling with the team and sitting on their bench like he has been, but given that he wasn’t playing and will get all of his money either way, this is still a relatively small status change provided that the league allows him to continue to rehabilitate with the team.
Cousins will be a free agent whenever he does clear waivers, and could theoretically re-sign with the Lakers this summer. Whether the team pursues him or not remains to be seen, but should he stick around in the capacity Charania suggests he plans to, no one will have a better sense of where he’s at in July than the Lakers do, and both sides would be able to figure out if continuing their union beyond this season makes sense.