In August of 2007, Elton Brand suffered a torn Achilles during a summer workout. The best player on the Clippers had averaged 20+ points in six of his first eight seasons in the league, and was doing a solid job living up to the hype of being the #1 pick in the 1999 NBA draft.
But Brand, who was 28 at the time of the injury, was never the same after the injury. He showed up for the final eight games of the following season, and then signed a $79 million deal with the 76ers. The Clippers, who had concerns about Brand returning at full strength from the injury, offered $20 million less.
The Clippers were right. Brand was never the same. He never averaged more than 15 points per game after the torn Achilles.
When DeMarcus Cousins went down with the same injury Friday night, Brand’s career was brought to mind. Some will be quick to mention Kobe Bryant’s injury in relation to Cousins, but Brand (6-foot-8, 275 pounds) had a similar body build to Cousins (6-foot-11, 270 pounds) and is a better comparison.
Cousins just turned 27, and he’s a free agent this summer. The injury is absolutely devastating for a number of reasons besides his free agency, which would have netted him a $175 million contract. Cousins and Anthony Davis were just starting to figure things out in New Orleans, and headed toward the playoffs.
What do the Pelicans do now? If they don’t re-sign Cousins, they can’t do anything salary cap-wise. If they do back up the brinks, you’re looking at a situation where Cousins probably doesn’t show up until January 2019, and it’s anyone’s guess if he’ll be able to return to the 25-12-5 beast he’s become now. He was headed toward his 3rd All-NBA honor in four years; Elton Brand earned that honor just once (2006).
The Pelicans have a gut-wrenching decision ahead. With no tradable assets to bring help to Anthony Davis, the most likely scenario is New Orleans rolls the dice by overpaying to bring Cousins back, and if he’s not able to be the player he was this season, Davis ends up asking to be traded.