DeMarcus Cousins has been relegated to the background since rupturing his Achilles in January. Outside of a few ripples in the rumor mill, the focus in New Orleans over the past three months shifted toward a fun Pelicans team that made the second round of the playoffs without him. But with free agency inching closer, Boogie is back on the map. Cousins is set to be an unrestricted free agent after a season and a half with New Orleans. With his future muddled by his injury and what is expected to be a thin offseason market for centers, his moves off the court are being tracked and mined for clues by NBA Twitter’s FBI agents.
Put on your internet-conspiracy goggles and dive into the Instagram comments with me. Cousins unfollowed the Pelicans last week, and then explained that he did so because he just didn’t want to see any distractions.
“I was scrolling down my timeline and I saw a Pelicans fan page so I followed the fan page and the picture that popped up read, ‘Should the Pelicans re-sign or let Demarcus Cousins go?’ So I was like I’m just going to unfollow this s— so I won’t have to see it,” he told Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated. “So I unfollowed it and I started noticing people asking, ‘Why did you unfollow the Pelicans?’ I was like, ‘How do people know I unfollowed the Pelicans?’ I ain’t even know that was possible.”
Ah, Boogie. I want to believe him here, even though it’s a bit far-fetched to unfollow the team’s official account because of what a random fan account has to say. You don’t become vegan just because you didn’t like how the steak was cooked at one restaurant. It didn’t seem like an accident when a fan asked him about it in his Instagram comments:
Boogie was asked why he unfollowed the Pelicans on Instagram. This was his response. pic.twitter.com/ryjeroh1MM— SLAM Magazine (@SLAMonline) May 16, 2018
Boogie also recently liked a random comment on a post about him that said “Pels need to offer him the max.”
If Cousins is holding out for a full max contract, he may be in for a rude awakening. Zach Lowe has reported that New Orleans is internally considering a “two- or three-year deal at less than the max,” and on Monday’s Bill Simmons Podcast, Lowe said he doesn’t think there’s much of a market for Cousins outside of New Orleans, Dallas, and maybe the Lakers, unless sign-and-trades come into play. “People react like, ‘No, DeMarcus Cousins is a star, every team will pay him the max.’ OK, who? He’s a big man coming off an Achilles tear, and half the teams [that have cap room] don’t want to spend their cap room because they’re bad,” Lowe said.
Figuring out what to do with Cousins is the central question of the Pelicans’ offseason. Bringing him back may give them the top-end talent they lacked to push the Warriors in the second round of the playoffs, and their cap situation leaves them with few options if they decide to walk away from the negotiating table. But the Pelicans seemed to have found something to build on with Anthony Davis playing next to Nikola Mirotic in a fast-paced offense. Cutting bait with Cousins after 65 games wouldn’t be ideal given the draft picks the Pelicans gave up to get him, but it may give them a clearer identity going forward.
The real question, though, will be which Cousins the Pelicans, or any team, would get if they sign him. A torn Achilles has been a historically tough injury to return to form from. A short-term deal that lets Boogie try to prove that he’s healthy (and in shape), and lets the Pelicans off the hook earlier if he can’t, may be an appropriate compromise.
Either way, this is a nightmare scenario for Cousins, who looked to be well on his way to a large payout and a fruitful partnership with Davis about five months ago. The only control he has of the situation now is with the (un)follow button.