first_imgIn the immediate aftermath, it felt like the Lakers needed time to process what happened. The news broke Thursday morning, and by midday, Kyle Kuzma was awkwardly fielding questions about Cousins as he was catching his breath from a USA Basketball practice. The organization likely needs a minute to catch its breath, too.But moving forward, the Lakers have to answer a lot of complicated questions about their team this year – questions that Cousins’ mere presence helped gloss over.While the Lakers have been cagey about identifying starters, it seems like a safe bet that JaVale McGee will be in the opening night lineup. The 31-year-old had a bit of a career renaissance, starting 62 games while averaging 7.5 rebounds and a career-high 12 points per game. During the middle of the season when he was struck with pneumonia, McGee struggled to find his footing once he got back, but as a starter, he’s proven at least serviceable for what the Lakers need him to do.But McGee’s starting role invites a larger question, one that is almost painfully obvious: Why wouldn’t the Lakers start Anthony Davis at center?The simple explanation is that Davis doesn’t want to. He said as much in his opening press conference, when he joked with Frank Vogel that he would play center if they needed him to. And frankly, the Lakers need him to. They have one open roster spot (and may be able to add another if Cousins is declared out for the season), and that probably gets used on a minimum big man at some point. But even though there’s a lot of names on the market (Joakim Noah, Nene and Amir Johnson are all available), none of them approach what the Lakers expected from Cousins, who even injured averaged 16 points and 8 rebounds for the Warriors last season. Kuzma could play some minutes as a small-ball center, but that didn’t work out so well last season, and the relatively slender 6-foot-9 wing can’t bang quite as well as Davis can.That would seem to add up to more minutes for Davis at the five. But NBA TV’s Jared Greenberg reported Thursday night that a Lakers source said the team didn’t want to play Davis “big minutes” at center, even though that might be his most effective position in an increasingly space-oriented NBA.Davis is a passable 3-point shooter (33.1 percent), but the Lakers’ other options on the wing seem as though they would be more effective spaced around Davis in the middle. Once Davis, McGee and LeBron James are sharing the floor, it gets crowded in the paint quickly.One reason the Lakers might not be so quick to push Davis inside is that he has powerful leverage over the team for the next year. As much as the organization has used language to suggest Davis will be in Los Angeles for a long time – Rob Pelinka said at his introduction that Davis would be a pillar “for many years” – the fact is that Davis is only under contract for one season. His agent Rich Paul, never one to be pushed over, has indicated multiple times that Davis will enter free agency next summer. While there’s been every sign that L.A. is where Davis wants to be, nothing is guaranteed – something best illustrated by Kyrie Irving’s relationship with Boston over the last year.There is a powerful motivation for the Lakers to not only keep Davis happy, but also keep him safe and healthy. While the “back-in-my-day” crowd will crow over how seven-footers in the ’90s would never gripe about having to play center, it’s a much more physical position than power forward. There’s bigger bodies, harder elbows and a tougher toll. Cousins, a comfortable option as a starting center, was just taken away, so there’s even less cushion for the Lakers if Davis has to miss time. Even though there’s a strong case on paper that a lineup with Davis at center is the Lakers’ best option, the team could determine that the risk is too great to make that the most-used group over 82 regular season games.There was always going to be an awkward dynamic caused by Davis’ desire to play power forward and a potential basketball need for him to play center. Cousins’ presence helped push that to the backburner. But one of the unfortunate collateral issues by his torn ACL is probably that this dance jumps into the forefront, as the Lakers try to find ways to compete and win games while keeping their new star – who they mortgaged their future to acquire – happy and healthy in the process.Even though the present is dominated by concern and hope for Cousins, the Lakers also have to feel that their margin for error just got thinner.COMING UPUSA Basketball’s week in L.A. comes to a conclusion on Friday night at 7 p.m. when the national team scrimmages with Spain. Kyle Kuzma is the only Laker up for a roster spot: The team will cut down to a final group of 12 after this week, then head to Australia shortly afterward while tuning up for the FIBA World Cup in China next month. He’s facing competition from a big man group that includes Miles Turner, Mason Plumlee, Brook Lopez, Khris Middleton, Harrison Barnes, Jaylen Brown and P.J. Tucker. The game will air on NBA TV.– Kyle GoonEditor’s note: Thanks for reading the Purple & Bold Lakers newsletter. To receive the newsletter in your inbox, sign up here.Linking to the finish …More on Boogie: Here’s our story from the DeMarcus Cousins injury and fallout with the Lakers.The schedule is out: Take a look at the most challenging stretches and biggest games for the Lakers during the 2019-2020 season.Lakers, Clippers are the big tickets in town: Mirjam wrote about the rising prices for both L.A. franchises.Kings prepare for life with Luke Walton: What Sacramento players had to say about their new head coach (who is the Lakers’ old head coach).Brook Lopez shakes off the past: The former Laker center has only good vibes to share about his L.A. tenure.LeBron’s school continues to grow: Here’s what’s happening in Year 2 of the I Promise School.More schedule-palooza: Howard Beck from Bleacher Report had an interesting podcast with the NBA’s schedule-makers that should clear up a lot of misconceptions. Editor’s note: This is the Friday Aug. 16 edition of the Purple & Bold Lakers newsletter. To receive the newsletter in your inbox, sign up here.What does it feel like to lose what you never had? For Lakers fans who were excited to see DeMarcus Cousins suit up this fall in purple and gold, it still feels like a gut punch.The reaction in Los Angeles – and around the NBA at large – is one of heartache. The last two years have transformed DeMarcus Cousins from one of the most polarizing players in the league to someone who was easy to root for: Coming back from an Achilles rupture in his left leg over the last year-and-a-half wasn’t easy, and playing just a month-and-a-half after a torn quad in the playoffs showed his toughness in the Finals.But injuries are not simply about how tough you are: All the grit in the world can’t stop an unfortunate twist of fate like the one that now has led to his ACL tear in the same leg.center_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img

Purple & Bold: DeMarcus Cousins’ injury opens a can of worms for the Lakers

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