It was 17 months ago when DeMarcus Cousins was traded from Sacramento to New Orleans, the newest member of the Pelicans, bringing unquestioned basketball gifts but burdened by an image that weighed about three tons.
That load is considerably lighter now. The Pelicans were good for Cousins and he was, according to New Orleans general manager Dell Demps, good for them.
“We were having success, and things are good when you’re winning games,” Demps said Wednesday on The Warriors Insider Podcast. “A lot of times, when you’re losing games things become magnified. There’s fuel on the fire.
“I don’t know what happened in Sacramento . . . but I know his time with us, we had success with him. It was a good run.”
Yet when Cousins became a free agent in July, discussions with the Pelicans didn’t advance past the conversation stage. So the 6-foot-11 center reached out to the Warriors and ended up leaving New Orleans.
“I understand,” Cousins, looking back on his time with the Pelicans, said in a Showtime video clip released Wednesday. “They had a big year. They don’t want to ruin it taking a chance on me. I’m a damaged player. Cool.”
In Sacramento for the better part of seven productive years that were by turns trying and turbulent, Cousins’ first full season in New Orleans was arguably the best of his career. He was averaging 25.2 points on 47-percent shooting (35.4 percent from deep), a career-high 12.9 rebounds and a career-high 5.4 assists when he sustained a torn left Achilles’ tendon on Jan 26.
That injury cost Cousins his first appearance in the postseason.
The injury, which can take up to a year to fully heal, occurred in the final seconds of a 115-113 victory over the Rockets that was the seventh win in eight games for New Orleans. Cousins had posted a triple-double: 15 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists.
“When he was injured, we were fourth in the West,” Demps said. “It was a sad day. There was a cloud over the city, for a little while.
“But we wish (Cousins) nothing but the best. He’s a good guy, he’s a tough guy, he’s going to compete and he’s an incredible basketball player.
Demps cited Cousins’ relationship with Pelicans star Anthony Davis as being a factor in easing Cousins’ transition to New Orleans. Though Cousins still played with plenty of emotion last season, he averaged one technical foul every 4.8 games, the lowest ratio since 2011-12, his second season with the Kings.
His popularity increased to a level that he received a standing ovation when shown on the scoreboard during Game 3 of the first-round series between the Pelicans and Trail Blazers. That was followed by chants of “Boogie, Boogie, Boogie.”
The Warriors hope that showing can be repeated sometime next season. Cousins likely will miss much of the early season, but hopes to return, healthy and active, before the next calendar year.
As for the concerns about Cousins adversely impacting the Warriors fast-paced style of play -- he’s known to do his best work in the half court -- Demps offered a bit of a rebuttal.
“We played with pace, with DeMarcus,” he said. “When he went out, I think we were sixth in pace. He’ll be fine. Talent has a way of just figuring it out.”
For the record, the Pelicans were indeed sixth in pace. They did, however, speed it up to another level after Cousins went down. They finished No. 1.