Anthony Davis wore DeMarcus Cousins’ jersey in the All-Star Game—but he reportedly will not miss his former teammate, after all. According to Andrew Doak, a New Orleans sports anchor for WWL-TV, Davis did not want Cousins—who signed with the Golden State Warriors on Monday—to re-join the New Orleans Pelicans in free agency.
The Pelicans went on a roll after Cousins tore his Achilles in January. Davis, in particular, thrived in the absence of Cousins, posting 30.2 points and 11.9 rebounds per contest for the remainder of the regular season.
Davis shifted to the center position and led the Pelicans to the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference and spearheaded an upset over the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round. The Pelicans then lost to Golden State in the Conference Semifinals. In nine playoff games, Davis averaged 30.1 points, 13.4 rebounds, 2.3 blocks and two steals.
Playing far better without Cousins, it makes perfect sense that Davis steered the Pelicans away from re-signing the controversial big man, especially if he felt the locker room was in better shape when Cousins was away from the team.
Cousins has long been seen as a locker room enigma going back to his days with the Sacramento Kings. He played for six coaches in his six-plus seasons with the franchise. He got the infamous label of “coach killer” and was viewed as a difficult player to get along with for the front office and the coaching staff.
The improved play of the Pelicans in the wake of a season-ending injury to Cousins, a toxic locker room presence, coupled with the fact that Davis heavily recruited newly-signed power forward Julius Randle to New Orleans, gives credence to Doak’s report. Davis could have urged management to bring back Cousins, but he clearly had no interest in re-uniting.
Cousins will not be returning from his Achilles tear until December or January at the earliest. Coming back from an injury of that magnitude is an arduous task for any player—and the reclamation process back into the fold of the team's offensive and defensive strategies would have been even more challenging for New Orleans (had they re-signed him) with a contentious figure like Cousins. It’s no wonder why Davis wanted him out of New Orleans.