Pelicans show immediate concern about potential impact of DeMarcus Cousins injury

by Jim Eichenhofer

New Orleans players were less than 15 seconds on the game clock Friday from heading into the home locker room to celebrate and enjoy one of the Pelicans’ premier wins of the season, a victory vs. Houston that punctuated the team’s best stretch of 2017-18. Then, as he tried to offensive rebound his missed free throw and save the ball back in bounds, four-time All-Star DeMarcus Cousins landed awkwardly along the baseline, collapsing to the floor near the Houston bench. He was immediately taken to the locker room, needing the support of two teammates to get there, having sustained a left Achilles injury.

Pelicans third-year head coach Alvin Gentry said after Friday’s buzzer that Cousins will receive an MRI on Saturday to determine the severity of the injury.

“We won’t know the damage or what’s going on until he gets an MRI (Saturday),” Gentry said. “He’s extremely important to us. So yeah, we’re scared about it. I feel horrible for him, with everything he’s tried to do this year for us and what he’s made himself, and the improvement in all areas he’s made, on and off the court, has just been great. I don’t want that to happen to a guy who’s trying to better himself. I hope it’s not anything that is that severe, but when it’s an Achilles, you just never know. All of our guys feel terrible about it.”

In a somber Pelicans locker room that sounded as quiet as it does when New Orleans has lost a game, Cousins’ teammates shook their heads at the negative turn of events.

“We’re just praying everything is OK,” Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday said. “It’s just unfortunate, really. We’ve been doing well, getting in a great groove. The way (Cousins has) been playing has been awesome.”

“It was a great win, but we’re not sure what’s going to happen with DeMarcus,” said Anthony Davis, who was expected to join Cousins as an NBA All-Star starter in February. “So we’ve just got to keep going. We can’t keep our heads down.

“We were just figuring everything out, that’s the tough part. We’ve just got to keep finding a way to win. Keep doing it with our defense. We have enough guys in here who are professional and always ready when their number is called. We’ve just got to make sure we stay locked in.”

In an NBA rarity, two of Cousins’ college teammates from the University of Kentucky are on the Pelicans’ roster, Darius Miller and DeAndre Liggins. Both noted how difficult of a blow it would if New Orleans does not have Cousins available due to his injury.

“We’re happy about the win, but at the end of the day we lost one of our soldiers, one of our leaders, one of our superstars,” Liggins said. “It hurt. It will hurt tomorrow when we go to practice, but the next man has to step up. It’s a bad deal, but injuries are part of the game. All we can do is pray for him, which we did. It’s hard to move forward, but we’ve got to. Next man has to step up.”

Miller: “We’re just waiting to see what’s going on, honestly. It’s a great win for the team, but that’s a huge piece of the team. That’s one of our brothers. (Cousins being sidelined) would be really tough. Really tough.”