New Orleans Pelicans star DeMarcus Cousins will undergo surgery to repair his torn left Achilles' tendon, sources confirmed to The Washington Post, a devastating injury both to the short- and long-term hopes of the franchise.
Cousins suffered the injury Friday night in the final seconds of New Orleans' 115-113 victory over the Houston Rockets while trying to track down an offensive rebound. Cousins planted his left foot, then immediately reached down and grabbed his heel, falling to the floor in pain. Cousins needed help leaving the court, and was unable to put any weight on his foot.
"We're scared about it," Pelicans Coach Alvin Gentry told reporters after the game. "I feel horrible for him. Everything that he's done, and what he's tried to do for us this year and what he's made himself and the improvements in all areas that he's made on and off the court, has just been great. I don't want that to happen to a guy that's trying to better himself."
The injury will knock Cousins out for - at minimum - the remainder of this season and only casts further doubt over the future of a franchise that already had one of the most uncertain futures of any in the NBA. Cousins is due to be an unrestricted free agent this summer for the first time in his career and was due to be one of a handful of players certain to receive a max contract offer.
It was expected that contract would come from the Pelicans, who have now won four in a row and 12 of their last 17 after knocking off the Rockets, putting them in sixth place in the Western Conference. General Manager Dell Demps and Gentry both have tenuous job security, and it was expected that both would be back with a playoff appearance - as would Cousins, who is close friends with Anthony Davis, the team's other superstar big man.
Now, it is unclear what the future will hold for all involved. The Pelicans, while currently in the playoff picture, are only three games ahead of the ninth-place Los Angeles Clippers and 6½ games ahead of the 10th-place Jazz - both of whom have played better recently after overcoming early-season injuries to their own star big men, Blake Griffin and Rudy Gobert, respectively.
Holding onto that playoff spot without Cousins, who is averaging 25.4 points, 12.9 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game, will be a tall task even for a team with Davis, one of the league's 10 best players. And then there's the question of what Cousins' market value will be as a free agent this summer in the wake of such a devastating injury.
Once Cousins misses three games, New Orleans will almost certainly be granted a second injury exception, as they now have five players out with long-term injuries. But New Orleans is only a little more than $1 million below the hard cap - a line it cannot cross this season - a fact that makes its ability to try to replace Cousins even more difficult. There is no player, however, that they could find either in the buyout or trade market that could come close to replacing his production.
New Orleans next plays Sunday afternoon at home against the Clippers.