Courtside

It would be an understatement to argue that the Clippers’ signing of DeMarcus Cousins smacks of desperation. After all, the value of the fifth overall pick in the 2010 National Basketball Association draft is suspect at best. While he has four All-Star and two All-NBA berths to his name, three significant lower back injuries in the intervening seasons have all but eroded his otherwise-prodigious skill set. It’s why even the talent-challenged Rockets saw fit to cut him loose in the face of his depressed numbers through the first third of the 2020-21 campaign, and why he found himself hitherto hard-pressed to latch on to an employer.

To be sure, the risk the Clippers will incur in inking Cousins to a 10-day contract is minimal; at little cost, he will serve as insurance given the sidelining of starting slotman Serge Ibaka. Frontliner Ivica Zubac figures to continue using up the bulk of available minutes, but he adds to the depth chart and can be tapped as needed by head coach Tyronn Lue. Meanwhile, he’ll be spurred to exceed himself both on and off the court; it may well signify his last opportunity to snag a roster spot, with an assured ticket to the playoffs as a bonus should his stint pan out.

First things first, though, and for Cousins, it means being at his level best. He’s not exactly known for his decorum while burning rubber, but, by all accounts, he’s a positive presence in the locker room. The flipside, of course, is that moral support goes only so far, especially for organizations with valid reasons to cast a moist eye on the hardware. And, in this regard, he will be handicapped; his fate is not his to carve. There will be other, more pressing considerations. How, for instance, will the Clippers view him once Ibaka is given a clean bill of health?

For now, Cousins has what he has been trying to secure since he parted ways with the Rockets in February: a chance. He needs to temper his expectations, however. He wanted out of Clutch City because of a pointed refusal to play behind — and serve as mentor to — former journeyman Christian Wood; never mind his underwhelming stats. And, all things considered, his pride looks to get him going either way: It can spur him to appreciate the importance of professionalism, or it can move him to insist on an inflated view of self.

 

Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and Human Resources management, corporate communications, and business development.