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Lakers not ruling out Cousins return this season

The Lakers’ committee of centers might get some reinforcements this season — in the form of DeMarcus Cousins.

Lakers coach Frank Vogel told reporters before Sunday’s 120-101 win over Charlotte that Cousins, who is recovering from an offseason ACL tear in his left knee, could return as soon as this season.

“We’ve not closed the door on that,” Vogel said “We’re going to be a wait and see. With these injuries that are long rehabs, you have to see and take it kind of month to month and see where he’s at. But we’ve not closed the door on a possible return for him.”

The Warriors took a similar approach with Cousins last season before he ultimately returned from a torn Achilles suffered with the New Orleans Pelicans in 2018. The former All-Star played 30 regular season games before a torn quad muscle again sidelined him, this time until The Finals against Toronto.

Fresh off that injury, the Lakers took a low-cost risk to sign Cousins during the offseason. The move was designed to further aid star big man Anthony Davis’ desire to play at power forward.

Instead, Cousins’ run of bad luck continued when he tore his left ACL in a summer pickup game. The news forced the Lakers to quickly turn to another former superstar — Dwight Howard — for help in the middle. Howard, whose production and star power have declined rapidly since his last All-Star appearance in 2014, turned back the clock on Sunday for 16 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks in just 23 minutes off the bench.

Still, the Lakers would no doubt welcome the option of Cousins as long as Vogel deploys Davis at power forward. In that scenario, L.A.’s current options are Howard and JaVale McGee, the latter of whom averaged more than 20 minutes per game last season for the first time since 2011-12.

Cousins, the fifth overall pick of the 2010 Draft, was one of the most dominant big men in the league before his string of injuries. The four-time All-Star boasts career averages of 21.2 points, 10.9 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.2 blocks. The list of players in NBA history to turn in averages of 21-10-3-1-1 (or better) over an entire season is short and star-filled.