While in Washington, DeMarcus Cousins sought many things.
He wanted to let Wizards youngster Thomas Bryant know that although he’s working his way back into form, he’s still a bully.
But there was one thing Cousins didn’t want. He didn’t wish to talk about why he’s not in a Wizards' uniform.
“Done shot!” Cousins exclaimed, shaking his head. It was his way of indicating that any conversation about last July’s surprising plot twist that landed him, one of the league’s most dominant centers, with the league’s most dominant team, wouldn’t last long.
“A done shot,” Cousins repeated after a reporter’s futile attempt to introduce the subject.
Cousins didn’t want to talk about it. But the years-long fantasy held by Wizards fans, as well as the franchise’s point guard, of bringing Cousins to Washington might have come to fruition last summer when the rehabilitating four-time all-star was available for a bargain. However, the Boogie-to-D.C. bandwagon turned out to be nothing more than just words.
“We talked,” Cousins said, revealing the extent of the brief flirtation between him and the Wizards.
“Me and John talked,” he said, sharing a bit more about the role his close friend, John Wall, played in the courtship that never was.
“We talked,” Cousins concluded. “That’s it.”
Wall had revealed that — and a bit more — earlier this season.
“He did consider here,” said Wall, who played one season with Cousins at Kentucky and had campaigned for a reunion for several years. “Oh yeah, we talked about it. He definitely wanted to be here. He definitely wanted to come play but after that injury it’s kind of tough, like how much can you put into that?”
Wall offered this perspective before season-ending surgery on his heel put his left foot in a walking boot. At that point, Cousins was working through an 11-month recovery process after Achilles’ tendon surgery and was limited to solo workouts on the court. Cousins missed the first 45 games of the season and made his season debut on Jan. 18.
Ultimately, this timeline dissuaded the Wizards, and other teams, from signing Cousins as a free agent. A fact Cousins himself said in a recent interview with The Athletic.
“They all slammed the door shut on me,” Cousins said about other teams around the league. “I reached out to teams with the same offer as Golden State, just to see.”
Coach Scott Brooks, putting it in nicer terms, shared a different view of the Wizards' limited interest in Cousins last summer.
“I think the conversation took place but it was his decision,” Brooks said. “When we made the trade [with] Gortat, we needed somebody now. We couldn’t afford to wait five or six months or four months into the season. We needed a live, active player that was ready to start the season.”
After the June 26 trade that sent Gortat to the Los Angeles Clippers, the Wizards entered free agency with a hole at the five spot. Cousins’s injury made him undesirable for a team that required a starting center on Day 1. In an ironic turn, the center the Wizards signed to a two-year deal, Dwight Howard, came into training camp hampered by an injury and later required spinal surgery. Even before the NBA all-star break, Cousins is on pace to match Howard’s total of nine game appearances. Howard continues his rehabilitation in Atlanta and there has been no timetable provided for his return to the court.
Months have passed since free agency and Boogie is back. Bryant, the Wizards' energetic starting center whose motor never stops, felt his presence during a minor tussle in the second quarter.
On one end, Bryant defended Cousins perfectly by altering his shot at the rim. While the players turned to transition down court, their arms remained interlocked. Cousins kept his left arm elevated while Bryant wouldn’t drop his right. After a few more steps, Cousins had enough of this prom date pose and aggressively yanked his arm away. Cousins received his first technical of the season for the move.
“That one was unintentional,” Bryant said, then chuckled. “That one was just, we got [tangled] and I was just like, ‘ahh, man!’
“It was great facing a great big man like him. He’s an all-star and he’s coming back from injury. He’s trying to get up to par and facing a guy like that, you want to bring your best game out.”
Now, imagine a guy such as Cousins in Wizards' colors, going to work in the low post for 17 points and six rebounds in just 24 minutes.
“I feel good. I kind of got mad at [Kerr] for pulling me tonight,” Cousins said, “But [we have] a program and we have to stick to it.”
Imagine Cousins sticking to the program in Washington for the rest of the season. Cousins certainly had.
“Me and John have talked, for years, about teaming up. So it’s not just about July,” Cousins said. “It’s not just July or any specific period. It’s been years about talking about teaming up. I ain’t going to give you a specific time but we’ve talked. A lot.”
That talk, however, mattered little.