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After Achilles tear, what’s next for DeMarcus Cousins? Pelicans?

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The news was shocking — with less than 10 seconds remaining in New Orleans biggest win of the season (an upset of the Houston Rockets), All-Star big man DeMarcus Cousins went down with what is known to be a torn left Achilles. He is done for the season and surgery is next, followed by a rehab that will stretch all summer and possibly into the start of next season.

The first reaction around the league was an outpouring of support for Boogie (this is just a small sample).

This was quickly followed by the “what’s next” questions, which focused on two fronts: How does this impact the Pelicans’ pursuit of the playoffs this season? And what does this mean for Cousins free agency this summer?

After the win, fivethirtyeight.com had the 27-21 Pelicans as almost a lock to make the postseason, at 89 percent. The Pelicans have won four in a row and 8-of-10, though they have not been blowing teams out (+4.4 per 100 in that stretch), the Pelicans have a top-10 offense and defense in those games. Now the question is that cushion enough? They are just 3.5 games ahead of the ninth-seed Clippers, and it looks like the eighth seed in the West will need to be .500 or a little above to get in. Can the Pelicans go 15-19 to close out the season and finish 42-40 and have a real chance? It’s going to be close.

On the positive side, Anthony Davis is having another All-NBA season (maybe first team again) and the Pelicans are +6.9 per 100 possessions this season when Davis is on the court and Cousins is off. While that number is a skewed some by poor opponent three-point shooting, the fact is the Pelicans are still a good team with Davis on the court. The problem is Gentry was able to stagger Davis and Cousins so one of them was almost always on the court, and a lot of the data we have with both of them out comes from meaningless garbage time. The Pelicans bench needs to step up now, and that has not been their strength this season. The team should get Solomon Hill back from hamstring surgery next month and they will need him to find his footing fast and contribute as a big, because the Pelicans look like a thin team now.

What happens this summer gets more complicated.

The first question is will GM Dell Demps and coach Alvin Gentry still have their jobs. They needed to make the playoffs and show this team had the potential to do more than just slip in to keep their jobs. How this injury impacts the decisions by ownership and upper management remain to be seen. Every move the Pelicans make right now has to be viewed through the “will this help us keep Anthony Davis in a few years?” lens.

Before the injury, it was expected around the league that the Pelicans would max out (or near max out, if they could) Cousins to keep him. Teams such as the Mavericks and Lakers might come calling, but if the Pelicans went in big he would stay in a city where he likes it and the team is winning. Now all of that is off. It’s unknown if other teams will come calling for Cousins with serious offers.

The max for Cousins next season will likely be just north of $30 million a season (the final number will depend on the salary cap), with raises it would have been a five-year, $175 million deal with the Pelicans, and four-years, $130 if he left.

New Orleans now will likely want to get Cousins back now at a small discount, maybe both in terms of money and years. Cousins will most likely be a little bit less of a player after this — most guys who come back from an Achilles see a dip in production — but he is so unique and dominant he will still be an excellent player. The Pelicans have gone all-in on the Davis/Cousins combo and have been active in trade discussions (according to other teams) looking for shooting and good players to put around their stars. Even if a new front office comes in, the two bigs plan likely stays just because of how big a step back it would be if Cousins leaves. Could the Pelicans now get Cousins on a shorter deal that lines up more with Davis (a free agent in 2020)?

There are no easy answers here. The Pelicans may still make the playoffs, but whatever happens, Cousins will still be in demand. He’s still going to get paid. It likely will not still be the max offer he was expecting.

Watch Tom Brady tell Charles Barkley to “take a suck of that” after he holes fairway shot

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It was the highlight of an entertaining — if not always pretty — afternoon of live golf, raising money for charity.

Tampa Bay Bay Buccanneers quarterback Tom Brady (it’s so weird to type that) was on his fourth shot on the par-5 7th hole at the Medalist Golf Club. Brady had a rough front nine to that point, and commentator Charles Barkley decided to up the trash talk (as if Barkley should talk about someone else’s golf game).

“How many shots do you want? Come on, I’m going to give you some shots man, I want some of you,” Barkley said.

“Don’t worry, it ain’t over yet,” Brady countered as he walked up to his fourth shot, 130 yards from the pin. “I think you just made him mad, Chuck,” host Brian Anderson said. “No, he can take a joke,” Barkley replied. Then this happened.

Brady earned that trash talk.

It wasn’t the only great exchange between the two; they had some fun on an earlier on a par 3 when Barkley bet Brady couldn’t get it on the green.

Increasing buzz teams well out of playoffs will not come to Orlando for games

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The Golden State Warriors have been public about it, they expect their season to be over. Golden State is far from alone, multiple teams well out of the playoff picture have questioned the expense and risk-to-reward ratio of coming back to play a handful of regular season games without fans in Orlando.

More and more, the buzz has been the NBA league office sees things the same way. I am not the only reporter hearing this: Steve Popper of Newsday wrote a column saying there was no reason to invite all 30 teams to the bubble city and the USA Today’s well-connected Jeff Zillgett added this:

This is where we throw in the caveat: There are no hard-and-fast plans from the NBA yet and every option is still being considered. One lesson Adam Silver took from David Stern was not to make a decision until you have to, and Silver is going to absorb more information in the coming weeks — such as from the recent GM survey — before making his call.

That said, the league seems to be coalescing around a general plan, which includes camps starting in mid-June and games in mid-July in Orlando.

For the bottom three to five teams in each conference, there is little motivation to head to Orlando for the bubble. It’s an expense to the owner with no gate revenue coming in, teams want to protect their NBA Draft Lottery status, and the Warriors don’t want to risk injury to Stephen Curry — or the Timberwolves to Karl-Anthony Towns, or the Hawks to Trae Young — for a handful of meaningless games.

The league is considering a play-in tournament for the final seed or seeds in each conference (there are a few format options on the table, it was part of the GM survey). That would bring the top 10 or 12 seeds from each conference to the bubble, depending upon the format, and they would play a handful of games to determine which teams are in the playoffs (and face the top seeds).

Either way, that would leave the three or five teams with the worst records in each conference home. Which is the smart thing to do, there’s no reason to add risk to the bubble for a handful of meaningless games.

Eight-year NBA veteran Jon Leuer announces retirement

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Jon Leuer is only age 31, but the big man has battled ankle and other injuries in recent seasons, playing in only 49 games over the past three seasons. Last July, the Pistons traded him to the Bucks in a salary dump, and Milwaukee quickly waived him. Leuer struggled to get healthy and did not catch on with another team.

Sunday he took to Instagram to announce his retirement.

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I love the game of basketball. I still want to play, but I know deep down it’s not the right decision for my health anymore. The past 3 years I’ve dealt with a number of injuries, including 2 that kept me out this whole season. It’s taken me a while to come to grips with this, but I’m truly at peace with my decision to officially retire. As disappointing as these injuries have been, I’m still thankful for every moment I spent playing the game. Basketball has been the most amazing journey of my life. It’s taken me places I only could’ve dreamed about as a kid. The relationships it brought me mean more than anything. I’ve been able to connect with people from all walks of life and forged lifelong bonds with many of them. What this game has brought me stretches way beyond basketball. I’m grateful for this incredible ride and everyone who helped me along the way. 🙏🏼🙌🏼✌🏼

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Leuer — a second-round pick out of Wisconsin for the Bucks in 2011 — averaged 10.2 points and 5.4 rebounds a game for the Pistons in the 2016-17 season, and for the years at the peak of his career he was a quality rotational big man teams could trust, either off the bench or as a spot starter.

Over the course of his career he played for the Bucks, Cavaliers, Grizzlies, Suns, and Pistons. He earned more than $37 million in salary, most of it from a three-year contract the Pistons gave him in 2016. It was not long after his body started to betray him.

Leuer has been riding out the quarantine in Minnesota is wife Keegan (NFL coach Brian Billick’s daughter) and the couple is donating thousands of meals a week to the needy in that community.

 

New York Governor clears path for Knicks, Nets to open facilities for workouts

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As of today, 19 NBA teams have their practice facilities open for players to come in for individual workouts, but 11 have yet to open the doors. Some it’s the decision of the team, some it’s that the municipality or state had not allowed it.

The Knicks and Nets — in the heart of New York, the part of the nation hardest hit by COVID-19 — are two of those teams whose facilities are closed. However, on Sunday New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said they could open the door for practice.

“I believe that sports that can come back without having people in the stadium, without having people in the arena — do it! Do it!” Cuomo said at his press conference. “Work out the economics, if you can. We want you up. We want people to be able to watch sports. To the extent people are still staying home, it gives people something to do. It’s a return to normalcy. So we are working and encouraging all sports teams to start their training camps as soon as possible. And we’ll work with them to make sure that can happen.”

While the teams have not formally announced anything yet, it is likely at least the Nets will open soon for the players still in market to workout (the majority of players from the New York teams went home to other parts of the country). The Knicks, well out of the playoff picture, may be much slower to open their facilities back up.

When they happen, the workouts come with considerable restrictions: one player and one coach at each basket, the coach is wearing gloves and masks, the balls and gym equipment are sanitized, and much more.

One part of a potential plan for the NBA to return to play called for a couple of weeks of a training camp at the team facilities, followed by 14 days of a quarantined training camp in Orlando at the bubble site. Multiple teams reached out to the league about doing their entire training camp in Orlando to avoid having players quarantine twice (once when the player reports back to market, once when the team goes to the bubble city).