LeBron James Says He's Optimistic About DeMarcus Cousins

Melissa Rohlin

Lakers' coach Frank Vogel said there's no specific timeline for DeMarcus Cousins to return from the torn left anterior cruciate ligament that he sustained in August. 

"There is no date," Vogel said Thursday. "And there’s really no specifics on it in terms of I’m not even sure where he’s at with exactly what he’s doing day to day. I just still know he’s a long way away. But they’ve said they’re not ruling out him returning. That’s really all I can give you."

Vogel said Saturday during his media availability before the All-Star Game that Cousins "is on track to get healthy by the playoffs," adding that "there’s a possibility he returns this season."

Cousins sustained the injury during a pickup game with NBA players in Las Vegas over the summer. 

The 29-year-old center recently spoke about how the injury happened on Showtime's "All The Smoke" podcast with hosts Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson.

"I fly home that day, I went to the gym," Cousins said on the podcast. "I had just landed. Damn near [cross country]. And I'm like, I don't want to miss no days in the gym. I'm getting into that mode, you know what I'm saying? I don't want to miss no days. So I go to the gym, I get there a little late ... I didn't have no business being out there. I just wanted to get my burn, like something, to make sure that I had a productive day. I had no business out there. Last play. Last basket of the game."

ACL tears typically sideline players between nine months and a year, which means Cousins could potentially make a comeback as early as May.

Vogel, however, said it would be tough for Cousins to regain his rhythm during the postseason when everything is intensified. 

"It’s a big challenge," Vogel said. "It’s not ideal. That’s why we’re keeping expectations tempered. Not ruling it out. But obviously to come out, to come back from basically a long stint of being out and in rehab like he’s been, for your first action to be in a playoff atmosphere, or near-playoff atmosphere, that’s not the ideal situation. But it is something that he’s encountered before at Golden State. It’s something that we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it."

Cousins has suffered a string of major injuries in recent years. 

In Jan. 2018, he sustained a torn Achilles while playing for the New Orleans Pelicans, which affected his value on the free agent market. He signed a one-year deal with Golden State that summer after not getting offers from any other teams. He missed the first three months of the Warriors' 2018-2019 season, making his return in January. Three months later, he sustained a torn left quadriceps that sidelined him for most of the playoffs.

Cousins signed a one-year, $3.5 million contract with the Lakers in July. The following month, the ACL injury happened. 

It was crushing for Cousins. But LeBron James said he's watched his teammate steadily improve and stay positive throughout the season. 

"He’s progressed every single day, every single month,” James said. "To the point where he was limping and now he’s actually shooting and actually jumping on the jump shots, and progressing every single day, every single week. He’s out there right now, getting his work done. We want to continue to stay optimistic about his health."

James added that the Lakers don't want to rush his return.  

"We don’t want no setbacks, as he’s had before in the last couple years," James said. "But his health is most important, and if we can get Cuz [Cousins] anywhere back to what he was capable of doing a couple years ago, it’s a plus for us. But there’s no pressure on him. There’s no pressure on our ball club to have him out there right away, or whenever that case may be. We want him to be healthy and have a great, clear mind and a great attitude, which he’s done since he’s gotten here."

Cousins has career averages of 21.2 points and 10.9 rebounds over his nine seasons in the NBA.

Vogel said the Lakers had high hopes for Cousins, who could create space for James and Anthony Davis if he's able to return. 

"Well obviously you’ve got one of the most versatile skillsets of any big in the league with his ability to play at the top of the key, his passing is underrated, his three-point shooting, the offensive rebounding force that he brings to the table, playing through the post," Vogel said. "Like I said, he’s been double-teamed a lot in his career, and would command a double-team, so there’s a lot that he would bring to the table for sure."