Pelicans express disappointment for DeMarcus Cousins, whose injury will prevent him from potential debut in NBA playoffs

by Jim Eichenhofer

Two years ago, Anthony Davis endured the unfortunate experience of being shut down by New Orleans during the final weeks of the 2015-16 regular season, a 14-game span of DNPs necessitated by shoulder and knee injuries. It was miserable.

Davis thought back to that extended layoff when he tried to dispense some advice to fellow All-Star big man DeMarcus Cousins, who was officially ruled out Saturday for the remainder of 2017-18 due to a torn left Achilles tendon. Cousins will be forced to watch his teammates over the final 34 games of the regular season between now and mid-April.

“I told him the first month, you’re going to want to pull your hair out,” Davis said after Saturday’s Pelicans practice. “It’s tough. Especially when your team is playing, and you’re not able to do anything. That’s the toughest part. With me, I just try to be around the team as much as possible, and feel like I’m still involved. I know he’s going to be here, trying to help as much as possible.”

Indeed, Cousins was back in the practice facility Saturday on crutches, as he awaits surgery, which may take place as soon as this week. The multi-month stretch of being unable to play will be brand-new to Cousins, who’s never sat out for more than 10 consecutive games during his NBA career. In fact, by appearing in all 48 New Orleans games this season, Cousins had been in uniform for 535 of a possible 606 games during seven-plus years in the pros.

“What everybody today feels is there’s a sadness for DeMarcus,” New Orleans third-year head coach Alvin Gentry said. “He’s worked extremely hard to be where he is right now. To me, he was having as good a year as anybody in the league. For what he’d brought to our team, and what we were trying to get done, I think the guys feel really badly for him.”

Cousins also will be denied the opportunity to potentially appear in the NBA playoffs for the first time since he entered the league as a Sacramento lottery pick in 2010. The Pelicans (27-21) are playing their best basketball of the season, currently on a season-best four-game winning streak and moving within striking distance of fifth-place Oklahoma City (29-20) in the West.

Gentry said he was contacted by 15 to 20 of his colleagues in the NBA head-coaching ranks after Cousins’ injury, with them expressing sympathy for the crushing news.

“They feel bad,” Gentry said. “Everyone feels bad for DeMarcus, simply because he has worked so hard to get in this position. All he wants to do is be in the playoffs. He wants to experience that. Obviously he was on his way to doing that and being an integral part of that. He was pretty torn up last night. It’s tough.”

“It’s going to be an emotional time for him, but he has family around him,” said Pelicans point guard Rajon Rondo, who was also a Kings teammate of Cousins in ’15-16. “Most important is to keep positive energy around him. Keep pushing to get better.”

Rondo agreed with Davis that it’s important for the Pelicans to have their second-leading scorer and top rebounder around the team, even if he can’t contribute on the hardwood.

“He’ll still be around,” Rondo said. “We need his energy. The only thing that changes will be his presence (isn’t) on the floor.”