If there was any joy of beating the Rockets on Friday night, it was short-lived. When DeMarcus Cousins had to be helped off the floor following a non-contact injury to his lower left leg, many feared for the worst, and the worst came true.
The Pelicans starting center, leading three-point shooter, top rebounder and starting NBA All-Star is done for the season after suffering a ruptured Achilles tendon.
"There's a sadness for DeMarcus," says head coach Alvin Gentry. "He worked extremely hard to be where he is right now. To me, he was having as good of a year as anybody in the league. I think for what he brought to our team and what we were trying to get done, the guys feel really bad for him."
But Coach Gentry followed that sentence with what every coach has to say in these moments; that the team has to move on because the league won't wait for them to recover or adjust. But that's easier said than done. There's no one that can replace what Boogie's done for the team this year and especially over the last week with two triple-doubles.
"You're going to miss anyone that would put up those kind of numbers if he left any team," says Gentry. "That's almost like asking Golden State if they'd miss KD if he wasn't there. Of course they would. Would they miss Steph if he wasn't there? So yes, we're going to miss him. But that doesn't mean we're not going to continue to strive for what we're trying to do, and that's be a playoff team."
To maintain their current playoff status, Anthony Davis will certainly have to carry more of the load, but maybe not as much as in years past. Outside of AD and Cousins, the Pelicans, as a team ,are improved. They average a little more than 26 assists per game, which ranks 2nd in the league. They also have two more players, Jrue Holiday and E'Twaun Moore, averaging double digits scoring.
"Everybody's playing well," says Davis. "We've got to carry that over to the rest of the season. Of course, missing one of our main guys is tough, but it means guys have to step up."
But this doesn't just affect the Pelicans as an organization. Cousins is on the verge of making a big decision in free agency, but the injury could affect his offers. Working in the Pelicans' favor in that regard is the way he's fit in so well with teammates.
"He's already said he's going to be around and be a part of the team," says Gentry. "Obviously, there's some rehab that has to be done. He loves being around the guys. The guys love being around him. I don't see that as any kind of issue at all."
But that's still no guarantee that Boogie will be back in the Big Easy next season.
"That's on him," says Davis. "He has to do what's best for him and his family. It was kind of the same thing with Jrue last year. We do everything we can to try to make him stay, but it's a business. And we understand that. He's going to have to make that decision."
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