Cousins Injured, Lakers Look at Replacements

(Image/Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press)

On August 15, newly acquired center DeMarcus Cousins was diagnosed with a torn ACL, just 40 days into his career with the Los Angeles Lakers. Cousins picked up the injury in an off-season scrimmage, after clashing knees with an opposing player.

With the injury to Cousins forcing the Lakers into a scramble for a new big man, Rob Pelinka and Co. have scheduled workouts with three veteran centers. These being; Dwight Howard, Joakim Noah, and Marreese Speights. All of whom have been highly regarding at some stage of their careers.

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(Image/AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Dwight Howard and the Lakers is a partnership that, on paper, should have been fruitful back in 2012-13. However, it was anything but, with the Lakers getting swept by the San Antonio Spurs in the 1st round of the playoffs that season. This was to be Howard’s solitary season in Los Angeles after turning down a 5-year, $118 million maximum contract extension, to sign with the Houston Rockets

Since then, Howard has gone on to play for 4 teams in last 5 years. With a reoccurring injury, he only suited up 9 times last season for the Washington Wizards, where he averaged 12 points and 9 rebounds, in 25 minutes. 

Say what you like about Howard’s off-the-court antics, which are usually cited as being the reason for his frequent movement around the league, but you’ll be stretched to find a player that, when fit, can happily average 12 and 12. 

With LeBron James heading up a roster packed with veteran leadership and a clear championship goal, Dwight Howard may well change his ways and buy into this project. All while providing valuable minutes alongside JaVale McGee at the center position. 

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Joakim Noah has played just 124 of a possible 328 games in his last 4 seasons. This included his final season with the Chicago Bulls, his poor tenure with the New York Knicks, and his, somewhat, mini resurgence last season with the Memphis Grizzlies

Averaging 7 points and 5.7 rebounds with the Grizzlies in just 16.5 minutes, we saw glimpses of the player that Chicago fans idolised for nearly a decade (2007-2016). However, the fiery, hard-nosed defensive presence that Noah brought to the league may be a thing of the past. Anything less would not be enough to combat the agile bigs that the NBA currently has to offer, including; Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic, and Karl-Anthony Towns

The injuries that Noah sustained in his career will, unfortunately, mean that he will never be able to be that high-energy tenacious all-defensive team center from his prime. But, at 34-years-old, if fit, he could add valuable numbers to a Lakers outfit in desperate need of a productive center. 

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(Image/Washington Post)

NBA Champion Marreese Speights spent the 2018-19 season playing his trade in China with the Guangzhou Long-Lions, where he averaged 22.7 points, and 7.4 rebounds, in 31 minutes. Speights also shot 35.7% from beyond the arc, which matches his NBA career average of 35.6%.

Speights would be a very different option to that of Howard or Noah, as he provides a skill-set, at 6-foot-10, that would stretch the floor whilst maintaining size. Although, if the Lakers are looking to fill the 5 position with a traditional rebounder then Speights just isn’t going to be a viable option in that regard.

The Lakers have already held a workout in Las Vegas for Speights this summer, so this is the 2nd time that Pelinka and Frank Vogel will be casting an eye over the 32-year-old veteran. 

Whoever the Lakers choose to fill that center spot will likely be no comparison to the injured DeMarcus Cousins. But, given the cards that the have been dealt, and with Anthony Davis not looking like much of an option at the 5, going into the season with another tried and tested veteran could be a positive.

A positive that sees the Lakers possessing a player looking for a resurgence in form to save their career, whilst sharing the team’s title aspirations.

By Ashley Hooper (@Hoopdream_