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DeMarcus Cousins: ‘I’m shooting to be ready for training camp’

Center talks about his rehab, impending free agency and New Orleans

The 2018 NBA free-agency class is expected to be highlighted by LeBron James, Paul George, Kevin Durant and Clint Capela. New Orleans Pelicans All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins wants to remind you to not forget about him.

Cousins told The Undefeated that despite having season-ending surgery for a torn Achilles tendon, he believes he can be physically ready for the start of training camp. Whether the four-time NBA All-Star is playing for the Pelicans or for someone else next season remains to be seen.

“I’m looking forward to starting the season,” Cousins said. “That’s my own personal goal, so we’ll see what happens. That’s what I’m working on. The doctors haven’t really given me an answer because of the time I injured myself and the amount of time that I have.

“It’s basically open field because I have so much time. But for me, I’m shooting to be ready for training camp.”

Cousins talked to The Undefeated on Thursday about his injury, free agency, the city of New Orleans, his mental spirits, Pelicans fans, whether the Pelicans are better without him, if he would be interested in re-signing with New Orleans and more.

What are your spirits like right now?

My spirits have been good. I’ve been in a good place. I’m not only just rehabilitating my body or my injury, it’s been a complete body of work. Just getting this amount of time to rest my body, I’ve never had this much rest probably since I picked up a basketball. I feel like it’s been tremendous for my body. I feel great. I feel fresh. I feel brand-new. It’s crazy to say.

Mentally I’m in a good place. Of course it’s a lot going on. But I’m just in a good place, I’m well-rested. I’m excited every day about my rehab. I get stronger and better every day. It’s been a good process so far for me.

What has kept you strong mentally?

My family. My support group. And I’ve been finding ways to feed my urge to compete. I play chess every day, board games. When it comes to my rehab, just making sure I improve every day. It drives me to make sure I’m better than I was the previous day. That’s what’s helped me push forward, and so far it’s helped me. Every single day my improvement from day to day is through the roof.

As far as rehab, are you going five days a week? Do you have to be cautious about not going too hard?

I go six days a week, and I was cleared a while ago to just go [hard]. My doctors and my team around me have been great with how hard they pushed me, how far they pushed me. The results have been good so far — well, not even good, great.

What does “great” mean as far as a timetable for a return?

Just at the pace I’m improving, how well I’m improving. Some people may be aware, but they may not know about this injury. Usually you lose a lot of size in your leg and it takes a while to get that size basically where you have matching legs. For me, I didn’t lose any size in my leg, so that’s something that my doctors and the guys coaching me through this process have been raving about it. They are super excited about it.

I didn’t lose much strength. It’s a lot of positives. Like I said, everything’s been great and it’s in the right direction.

What does that say about the technology, the trainers you’re working with or even yourself to progress this quickly?

It’s great receiving the knowledge and learning so much about this specific injury and how the body works. I’ve gained so much new knowledge of this situation and the technology that goes along with it. Even some of the more simple things help in so many ways, and I’m excited about it. I know I’m on the right path, and like I said, I’m improving each and every day.

Did you reach out to Kobe Bryant or other former or current NBA players who tore their Achilles tendon?

I’ve talked with Kobe some. I’ve talked to Rudy Gay. Wes Matthews reached out to me, and I planned on reaching out to Dominique Wilkins at some point.

So where’s your love for basketball after it has been taken away? You finally made the playoffs in your eighth season, and then it gets taken away from you by injury. You had to sit there and watch your team have a great high in sweeping the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round and then a great low in losing to the reigning champ Golden State Warriors in the second round. How frustrating was it for you to not be a part of that?

It hasn’t been the easiest road for me. I haven’t always been in the best situations. With each situation I just try to take something from it and learn from it.

Even with the short season I had this year, I took away the positives and the negatives that I thought. I tried. I analyzed it in my own head and just went over it. I’m always trying to find ways to better myself as a player, a teammate, a professional, as a man.

I’m just using all of this to better myself and grow from it, but as far as my love for the game, if anything it’s gotten even deeper just being away from it and watching the games every night. These playoff games, watching my team finish out the season, watching these guys get credit, it’s driven me crazy, but I know my return is going to be that much more special because of the buildup, just this whole buildup of this process. I know my return is going to be special.

What was your take on skeptics who thought that the Pelicans could be better without you?

It’s silly. I don’t think anyone in that locker room believes that. Not to take any credit from my team, but they stepped up, and that’s what you expect from your teammate when adversity hits and that’s exactly what they did. I’m super proud, and I give them all the credit in the world for being able to come together and make that happen.

You couldn’t blame them if they decided to crumble and let the season go down, but they didn’t. They found another gear and they finished the season out super strong. I’m extremely happy for them.

On Jan. 26, the Pelicans won their seventh of eight games with you and Anthony Davis leading the way by beating the team with the NBA’s best record at the time in the Houston Rockets. You also tore your Achilles in that game and would miss the rest of the season. How good were the Pelicans at that time?

Honestly, it just kind of sucks how quickly people forget or the people that didn’t forget that just didn’t even know. You had to be paying close attention to us to know the ups or downs of our season. The people that were paying attention, they know we were about to turn that corner. We had just beat the hottest team in the NBA that night, but for some reason that didn’t matter.

I’ve been around this business long enough I know how storylines go. I know how the media presses issues. I know how they use things to get clickbaits in. As sad as it sounds, and no disrespect to you, but not a lot of research goes into these articles nowadays. It’s more about what can I use to make people pay attention, and I think that’s another case with this.

That being said, how good were the Pelicans at that time?

It was scary, and at that moment we thought that we could battle with any team in the NBA. It didn’t matter. It’s crazy because I remember [Rajon] Rondo saying, ‘Man, it’s clicking.’ And the way we were meshing together, everybody was flowing together. I can remember him talking about it saying we’re clicking, it’s looking so good out here and, you know, it happens.

Did you look at the video of your injury? Do you reflect back on it or do you just move on from it?

I honestly looked at it one time, and I haven’t had the urge to look. I honestly don’t even care about it. I mean, of course I care, but I’m past that moment. My full focus is on just returning to playing the game I love. That’s the only thing I look forward to at this moment.

As far as free agency, what do you think the level of interest is with New Orleans, on your side and on their side?

I know for a fact my teammates want me back there, but you know it’s a business. The people in the front office are going to make the best decision for the team or whatever they feel is the best decision. You know, we’ll see what happens. I honestly can’t answer that question, I haven’t spoken to the front office in a while, so we’ll see what happens.

Are you open to re-signing with New Orleans if the deal is right?

Oh yeah, for sure. This is my first time in free agency, but I’ve been around this business long enough. I know how things work. I’m not out here trying to hold a grudge or anything like that. I’m going to make the best decision for me, and I believe teams are going to do the same thing.

What’s your mindset, your view of how to approach free agency? Do you feel like you owe it to yourself to do your due diligence and hear what everybody has to say?

Yeah, like I said I don’t plan on rushing through this process. I’m going to make the absolute best decision for DeMarcus Cousins. We’ll see what that is. As of right now, I don’t really know. I can’t answer that. Would I like to go back to New Orleans? I’m very open to that. I love what we created. I love what was created after I went down. I would love to be part of it. But I’m going to do what’s best for me, and I feel they’ll do the same.

Do you think teams will hold the injury against you, or you’re not concerned about that being a problem?

Honestly, I’m not concerned. I know my mindset. I know how hard I work at my craft. I think I’ll be back in no time.

Unarmed Sacramento man Stephon Clark was holding only his cellphone when he was fatally shot on March 18 by two Sacramento police officers. You ended up getting in contact with the family and offered financial assistance. How did you first hear of the incident?

Well, of course I learned it the same way anyone else learned it. It was kind of blasted everywhere, and it hit home for me. I hate that situation. I hate any family has to go through that. Of course, it’s an ongoing issue that we still have not found a solution to. At this rate I feel like it’s getting worse, and with that being said the fact that it’s getting so bad that most of these cases are starting to get swept under the rug because it’s happening so often.

It sucks. I couldn’t imagine losing a family member, or a child, or brother, or sister, to something as tragic as that. I was hurting for that family, and I tried to help. And that’s all it was, I was trying to help.

Did they end up accepting your offer?

They did, and it really just sucked. I hate the whole situation. I hate it happened.

And to think just a season earlier, you were a member of the Sacramento Kings doing local town hall meetings about issues between black people and the police.

Yeah, and then for you to know that about a year earlier you were having discussions in that town talking about this very day. Yeah, it’s just going to take people cracking down, putting their full attention on this situation and finding a solution.

What’s the typical workout day like for you?

Typical workout day I go to my therapy, I get my treatments, I go through my series of exercises. Whatever they have for me for the day. After I finish that I go to the underwater treadmill and do my session in there. It may be 30 minutes in there. After I leave there, I have Pilates. After my Pilates, I go through another series of treatment and icing. Massages as well.

Then I’ve been doing this, I don’t even know the word for it, it’s some type of training and it’s called BFR. Its new technology that stands for blood flow restriction. It’s basically where they put cuffs on your legs and on your arms. You tighten it to a certain amount and it slows down the blood flow throughout your body to that muscle. I do squats with these cuffs on my legs; it builds up an extreme amount of pressure in your legs. It’s almost like when you put a rubber band around your hand and how it kind of swells up. Once you take it off, all that blood rushes back into your arm, you can almost feel it.

All that’s new blood, and it helps promote healing at a rapid pace. That’s another form of training that I’ve been doing, and that’s another reason I’ve been healing and progressing at such a rapid pace.

What’s the ideal free-agency destination for you?

Somewhere I’d be appreciated and a contender. A team that’s ready to contend.

What do current Pelicans teammates Anthony Davis and Rondo say about your pending free agency? And Rondo will be a free agent too.

We haven’t talked. My full focus has been on my rehab. Actually, A.D. hit me the other day, sending me some laughing emojis about the s— that is going on … but that’s the only time that we’ve spoken since the season was over. I hit them after the game, told them, ‘Great season’ and all that, but since then we haven’t really talked.

What did the city of New Orleans mean to you this season, and also what did it mean to you that Pelicans fans were chanting your nickname “Boogie” at a playoff game?

The city of New Orleans is super dope. The Southern hospitality is through the roof. Only a Southerner would really know what that Southern hospitality is like. It’s genuine love down there. They are crazy about their sports teams, the Pelicans and the Saints. Whenever I was out and about I was always shown love.

It felt good when I was able to come back and hear the thousands of fans in there chanting my name. It sent chills through my body, but that was a great moment for me, it made me feel special. I appreciated the time I did have there, if it is the end. But if it’s not, I can’t wait to be back around.

So what was this story about you unfollowing the Pelicans on Instagram? And then you follow Lakers forward Julius Randle, sparking rumors that you could go to the Los Angeles Lakers?

Well, I was already following Julius and Paul [George]. Isaiah [Thomas] was my teammate; I’ve been following Isaiah for years.

The reason I unfollowed them was, one, I was scrolling down my timeline and I saw a Pelicans fan page so I followed the fan page and the picture that popped up read, ‘Should the Pelicans re-sign or let Demarcus Cousins go?’ So I was like I’m just going to unfollow this s— so I won’t have to see it. In my mind, that’s all I’m thinking. So I unfollowed it and I started noticing people asking, ‘Why did you unfollow the Pelicans?’ I was like, ‘How do people know I unfollowed the Pelicans?’ I ain’t even know that was possible. I didn’t even know you could know if somebody unfollowed somebody. So you know my response, well, it was like a little kid: Well, ’cause I’m grown. I do what I want, I’m grown.

Marc J. Spears is the senior NBA writer for Andscape. He used to be able to dunk on you, but he hasn’t been able to in years and his knees still hurt.