By Garrett Howell
April 2009. DeMarcus Cousins, a highly coveted center in his class, stepped onto the University of Kentucky’s campus. Lead there by John Calipari in his first season as UK’s head basketball coach, this arguably kicked off the one and done era. Cousins, along with John Wall, were must watch players that season. He averaged 15.1 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 1.0 APG, 1.0 SPG, and 1.8 BPG while also shooting 55.8% from the field. He was a star. He started in all 38 games that he played in and led his team to an Elite Eight appearance in a sizable tournament run. He left after his freshman season, along with teammates John Wall and Eric Bledsoe.
April 2010. Cousins decides to forgo his final three years of eligibility and enter his name into the NBA Draft. A sought-after prospect, DeMarcus found himself getting drafted with the 5th overall pick to the Sacramento Kings, a team who desperately needed a rise back into the spotlight. He spent his first six and a half years as a Sacramento King, and while he proved to be an All-Star caliber player, he was mentally unstable on the court. His season prior to be traded to the New Orleans Pelicans he received a $25,000 fine for hitting a record mark of 16 technical fouls, proving what people have always thought about him as far as his emotions getting the best of him. Frankly, besides the fact that a DeMarcus Cousins led team never produced winning results, I believe his emotions were a factor in him being moved. Over his six and a half year career for the Kings he averaged 21.5 PPG, 10.9 RPG, 3.1 APG, 1.4 SPG, and 1.2 BPG and shot 45.8% from the field, 20.4% from 3, and 73.2% from the stripe. All in all, this was the making of an All-Star caliber center who had yet to reach his prime. It worked in “Sactown” for a long time, that is until it all fell apart. He loved the city and the city loved him, but the winning failed to mask the troubles that DeMarcus had.
February 2017. DeMarcus was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans to play alongside Anthony Davis (also a University of Kentucky alum) to create the best front court in the league. AD and Boogie were a problem for teams. Either player could give you 40 points and double digit rebounds on any given night. At this point in their careers they were both walking double-doubles and DeMarcus was starting to blossom. In only 17 games with the Pelicans that season, Cousins averaged 24.4 PPG, 12.5 RPG, 3.9 APG, 1.5 SPG, and 1.1 BPG on 45.2% shooting from the field and a career high 37.5% from three. Things were only going to get better the next season, or so the NBA world thought…
January 2018. Cousins is having the best all-around year of his still young career, and the Pelicans aren’t a team to be reckoned with at the time. Boogie was averaging 25.2 PPG, 12.9 RPG (Career High), 5.4 APG (Career High), 1.6 SPG (Career High), and 1.6 BPG while shooting 47% from the field, 35.4% from three and 74.6% from the stripe, all while playing a career high in minutes as well (36.2 per game). On January 22nd, he recorded a 44 point, 24 rebound, and 10 assist triple-double in a double overtime win against the Chicago Bulls. This historic showing made him the first player to do this since hall of fame center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar did it in 1972. How impressive was it? This was the 10th time it had ever been accomplished in NBA History. Boogie and Pelicans were thriving, and he was going to be seeking a max free agent contract the following July. Unfortunately, just as things were looking up for the 3-time All-Star, his world came crashing down.
January 26th, four days after his historic triple-double, Cousins recorded yet another triple double in a win over the Houston Rockets. While the statistical numbers were lesser then the one prior, it was still another impressive triple double. Even though it was a win and another stat sheet stuffed night for Demarcus, it wasn’t the reason he was headlining major sports outlets that night and next morning. In the closing seconds of the win, DeMarcus was diving for a loose ball and ruptured his left Achilles. A devastating blow to a player that had everything going for him, and a team that was finally winning for the first time in years. Five days later, on January 31st, he underwent season ending surgery, and some went as far as saying career ending. No player of Cousins’ size or age had ever successfully recovered from an achilles injury prior. Everything seemed to be trending to the top and Boogie was in the conversation for the best center in the league. He would’ve finished with the best year of his career and gotten PAID once July rolled around. All of that came crashing down in one fleeting moment, one that honestly seemed preventable. Then again, how can you ever predict a career altering moment like this one? It simply cannot be done. DeMarcus Cousins was now unwanted, just a memory of what he once was. Or was he?
July 2018. It’s July 6th and DeMarcus Cousins has had little to no interest since Free Agency opened 6 days earlier. He reached out to teams and almost all turned him down, except for one, and an unlikely one at that: the Golden State Warriors. Cousins’ camp communicated with Bob Meyers and his group and they agreed upon a 1 year, $5.3 million-dollar contract. A truly baffling contract when you look at the name who signed it. Boogie, arguably the best center in the NBA, who was going to be due about $140 million in July, instead signed for an unbelievably measly $5.3 million dollars. As a Warriors fan, it was a move that you thought was underrated and a pure steal from the rest of the league. As a fan of another team, you thought that sure, it wasn’t a lot of money, but could Boogie really make it back from that? Only time would tell.
December 2018. Demarcus is practically back from his devastating injury. A potentially minor setback for a major comeback was the hope around the league, for the Warriors, and especially DeMarcus Cousins. He was assigned to the Warriors G-League Affiliate, the Santa Cruz Warriors, to get his first full contact practices since the injury. On January 18th, 2019, it was finally time for his return. Cousins made his debut and scored 14 points for the “Dubs” before fouling out in a 112-94 win over the Los Angeles Clippers. A solid start considering the long road ahead of him. He reached another milestone on April 2nd when he scored a season high 28 points along with 13 rebounds in a 116-102 win over the Denver Nuggets. Through the 30 games he played, he started all of them and averaged 16.3 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 3.6 APG, 1.3 SPG, and 1.5 BPG on 48% shooting from the field and 27.4% from three.
All in all, Boogie had a solid end of the season with the Warriors and things were moving in the right direction, that is until April 16th. In Game 2 of the first round of the NBA Playoffs, Cousins tore his left quad and was ruled out indefinitely. A huge blow to both Cousins and the momentum he had built up coming off the season he had put together. You couldn’t help but feel bad for him, as he was finally returning to form just to tear his quad the same way he tore his Achilles: diving for a loose ball. He spent 6 weeks on the sidelines and came back for Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the Toronto Raptors, and man was this a rushed return. He was slow, flat footed, and inefficient from the field. He had officially reached the point of being a shell of his former self. With all this in mind, it was not over yet for Boogie, even though it may have seemed like it.
July 2019. Free Agency has begun and DeMarcus is going through an even worse free agency pain than he did the year before: he went from a small market to a nonexistent market. No team wanted him, and he was rarely in any scenarios where a team needed a 2nd or 3rd big name. On July 6th , around 1:00 A.M. EST, Kawhi Leonard chose the Clippers over the Lakers and that opened the door for Boogie, as he was signed by the Los Angeles Lakers around 5:00 P.M. EST.
In my eyes, this is DeMarcus Cousins’ last chance to be in this league. He has an incredible amount to prove in a small amount of time. He’s got the players around him to help him thrive in LeBron James and his old teammate Anthony Davis, but there is no telling what lies ahead for Boogie. There is only one definitive thing that lies ahead of Cousins now: chance. DeMarcus went from the top to the bottom the same way most other stars do in this league: being lessened by injury, and not being able to “get back up” without being carried. So many good players have lost their careers because of a simple, split second play. Rarely any of them make it back and have a career resurgence, but can Boogie defy the odds and re-surge his career like some before him? Or will he fall short to injury and be an after-thought this year? Time will tell, as it always does. DeMarcus Cousins is a one of a kind personality and talent in this league. It would be a shame to see it all go away by the time he turns 30, but only chance, time, and Boogie can change that.
Photo Credits: businessinsider.com