An NBA-appointed doctor ruled DeMarcus Cousins is “substantially more likely than not” to be out through June 15.
The Lakers will take the disabled-player exception that comes with that prognosis. But they’re also open to Cousins, who tore his ACL in August, returning in the playoffs.
Lakers coach Frank Vogel, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN:
“We’ve not closed the door on that,” Vogel said Sunday before the Lakers played the Charlotte Hornets. “We’ll just — 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 league-appointed doctor’s diagnosis is a huge indicator Cousins will miss the entire year. And it’s only one of several reasons to believe Cousins won’t play at all this season.
Cousins’ $3.5 million salary could also be useful in facilitating a trade. Obviously, no team will trade for Cousins for the sake of acquiring him. But that salary could make the difference in salary matching.
On an expiring contract, Cousins might also hesitate to rush his return. He needs to get healthy to draw guaranteed money next summer. (On the other hand, if Cousins is open to risk-taking, playing this season gives him an opportunity to prove himself and generate bigger offers).
Lastly, Cousins is facing a domestic-violence charge. A suspension would make him ineligible to play.
The disabled-player exception itself won’t stop him. If he beats the NBA’s predicted timeline, he can still play – even if the Lakers already used the exception.
The Lakers gain nothing by “closing the door” on Cousins’ return. He’s still on the roster. They might as well be open to any possibilities, and they can say whatever they want.
It just seems highly unlikely they’ll get him back this season.