Lakers! How Paul George’s past informs DeMarcus Cousins’ future

It’s been almost five years since then-Pacers star Paul George broke his leg in grisly fashion during a USA basketball scrimmage in Las Vegas. It’s not easy to come back from such a traumatic injury, either mentally or physically, and George took a couple of years to return to being the player he once was.

Frank Vogel was the head coach of the Indiana Pacers at the time. He’s now using George’s path to inform his approach to another supremely talented player coming off a devastating injury.

DeMarcus Cousins.

“I talked to DeMarcus about Paul George and overseeing his recovery from that broken leg,” Vogel said. “The first year you’re out. You don’t play. You’re not even in uniform. I mean, you’re just not even in uniform. Year 2, you’re in uniform, but you’re not quite yourself the entire year. Gordon Hayward saw it this year. It takes, to me, a full second year to regain all of your rhythm, timing and explosiveness and quickness. It just takes time.”

Cousins tore his Achilles tendon in January 2018, when he was playing for the New Orleans Pelicans. He missed the rest of the season and went into what should have been a lucrative free-agency season with hardly any options. He signed a one-year deal with the Golden State Warriors, who had such a talented team that they had the luxury of waiting on Cousins’ recovery.

Exactly six months ago, Cousins made his debut with the Warriors, but he wasn’t himself. Then, in the second game of the playoffs he tore a quadriceps muscle and returned in the Finals, still not quite himself.

In some ways the Lakers might have gotten Cousins at the perfect time. They have Cousins on a one-year deal worth $3.5 million and he’s in his second year since suffering the injury. But Vogel hopes Cousins remains with the team for years to come.

“This is the year that I think that [he] hopefully starts to really gain his form, and if he does, then we have one of the most powerful, dominant players in the game,” Vogel said.

Vogel isn’t the only one excited about the possibilities. Davis was perfectly candid during his introductory news conference on Saturday – he does not like to play center. That’s why the Lakers went out and got Cousins, with whom he enjoyed playing in New Orleans.

Cousins’ ability has never been questioned, but his demeanor has, in part because he piled up technical fouls with gusto while in Sacramento. Davis scoffed at those potential concerns, using air quotes to dismiss the media attention Cousins got for being “emotional.” He never saw that in New Orleans.

The thing is, Cousins never played on a playoff team in his six and a half seasons with Sacramento, where he started his career. Davis feels that on a team with playoff aspirations Cousins is a great fit.

“Obviously last year it was rarely talked about, him being ‘emotional,’” Davis said. “When you come into another situation like this, I don’t think it’s going to be a problem at all because we have one goal and it’s to win here. I loved playing with DeMarcus.”