Why the Rockets had to commit to DeMarcus Cousins

DeMarcus Cousins #15 of the Houston Rockets (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)
DeMarcus Cousins #15 of the Houston Rockets (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images) /

When the Houston Rockets first signed DeMarcus Cousins in the offseason, the move drew a slew of varying opinions and reactions. On one hand there was the camp that believed that Cousins could provide value as a reserve big, based on the unique skillset that he possesses, which made him a four-time All-Star and two-time All-NBA selection.

On the other there was the camp that believed that signing Cousins was simply too risky, as he’s battled a myriad of injuries that forced him to miss 208 games dating back to 2014. The details of the contract made both sides feel much more at ease, as Cousins’ deal was a one year contract that was non-guaranteed.

Cousins’ deal was a veterans-minimum contract worth upto $2.3 million, and was structured in such a way that the Rockets had upto February 27th to guarantee the entire amount. As it turns out, the Rockets didn’t need to wait that long, as they decided to guarantee Cousins’ salary on Friday.

The Houston Rockets have guaranteed center DeMarcus Cousins' $2.3M contract for the rest of the season, sources tell ESPN. Teams have until February 27 to make that decision on non-guaranteed deals.

— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) February 19, 2021

Why the Houston Rockets had to commit to DeMarcus Cousins

But did the Rockets really have a choice? For starters they’ve been deprived of healthy big men, as budding star Christian Wood has missed the last seven games and has missed 11 of the Rockets’ 28 games this season. The Rockets tried to turn to Ray Spalding to help fill in for Wood, but he ultimately got hurt after just two games.

The Rockets recently turned to Justin Patton as a reserve big, to take the role that Spalding would have had. With all of the injuries, Cousins has been the only steady presence at the center position for the team.

Related Story. 4 things Justin Patton could bring to the Rockets

Cousins has played well in spurts, as he’s had six double-doubles thus far and has logged 11 starts, averaging 13.7 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 3.3 assists, while making 41.2 percent of his shots and 37.1 percent from long-range. Boogie also posted true shooting splits of 54.6 percent during those starts, which is better than the 51.1 percent he’s posted on the season.

On the year Cousins has made 33.6 percent of his threes, which is leaps and bounds better than how he fared when he last played for the Golden State Warriors in 2018-19, as he made just 27.4 percent of his long-range attempts. When you add all of this up, it’s clear that Cousins has outperformed the expectations of someone that was given a non-guaranteed contract.

But aside from how he’s played on the court, Cousins has been even more valuable in the locker room from the time he arrived in Houston. Cousins was asked about how he felt about being a reserve to Christian Wood, to which he gave a team-first response.

DeMarcus Cousins says he’s “totally fine” with coming off the bench as a 6th man. He says Christian Wood has been a sponge since entering the building and that’s all he can ask for. He said he’s here to push Wood, and it’s team first. He’ll be ready for any position he’s in.

— Cayleigh Griffin (@cayleighgriffin) December 9, 2020

Cousins also became one of the most outspoken players on the team after the James Harden melodrama was put to an end, as he didn’t hold back when asked about the situation and how Harden conducted himself in Houston this season.

“The disrespect started way before any interview. Just his approach to training camp, showing up the way he did, the antics off the court.

The disrespect started way before. This isn’t something that all of a sudden happened last night.”

Cousins shared his thoughts on Harden’s comments that the Rockets “weren’t good enough”, stating:

“The other 14 guys in the locker room have done nothing to him. We’ve only showed up to work like everybody else. It’s completely unfair to the rest of the guys in the locker room.”

Cousins has been the model citizen and ultimate team player in Houston, and when one considers how Cousins has also had a fairly solid bounce-back season in his first year removed from tearing his ACL, the Houston Rockets essentially didn’t have any other option but to guarantee his salary for the remainder of the season.

And especially considering the Houston Rockets’ injuries and the fact that Cousins has remained healthy this season.

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