Life without DeMarcus Cousins has left the New Orleans Pelicans deprived of an All-Star and without one half to the Anthony Davis-Cousins towering experiment unique to New Orleans in an era craving for high-volume shooters.
By no means, do the Pelicans plan to replace Cousins’ 25.2 points and 12.9 rebounds per game, two of the 10-best marks in the NBA, with a single player, coach Alvin Gentry said.
Prior to his season-ending Achilles injury Friday, Cousins was having a Most Valuable Player-caliber season, according to Gentry. So the process of reform to amend a now Cousins-less season began Sunday in the Pelicans’ 112-103 loss to the Clippers.
Of course, to Gentry, the coach would rather Cousins be on the floor, especially since New Orleans (27-22) is pursuing a serious push at the postseason for the first time since 2014-15.
But with Cousins absent anywhere between six to 10 months, there’s much to figure out.
“I would rather have DeMarcus out there doing the same old things,” Gentry said jokingly. “We're not in the experimental mood right now with half the season in. We'd rather have DeMarcus doing exactly what we were doing.”
The Pelicans started journeyman forward Dante Cunningham, who made 20 starts before Sunday, against Los Angeles. It’s the first step in a winding process to figure out how to collaborate bigger bodies like Cunningham, forward Cheick Diallo, center Omer Asik and forward Darius Miller in Cousins’ stead.
How Gentry and the Pelicans plan to divvy out Cousins’ 36.2 minutes per game is unknown, but the Pelicans are open to seeing what may work and what may not.
"I know we'll try a different combinations of things to see what works for us right now," he said.
“We told everyone, in this situation, everybody's got to lift their game. We're not going to have one guy try to make up for what this is."
Sunday, in a home loss to a weaker Western Conference team, the Pelicans held a 21-point lead against the visiting Clippers (25-24), which vanished in a poor offensive third quarter when New Orleans scored 15 points in 12 minutes.
Cunningham posted eight points and seven rebounds in 28 minutes. Swingman DeAndre Liggins played 16 minutes, his second-most since signing a pair of 10-day contracts, the first on Jan. 10. Asik added four points with a pair of layups that aroused the Smoothie King Center. Miller had three points in 27 minutes and Diallo did not play.
"I thought it was fine," Gentry said. "Omer came in and gave us some good minutes. We're a smaller team, obviously, when we move Darius to the four and Dante played well for us and gave us some good minutes. It's one game, we'll make adjustments and we'll go back and look and we'll see what we can do to try and make it a little bit better."
Davis, the duo's healthier half, recorded 41 minutes in the Pelicans' first game without Cousins. Davis was receiving treatment for more than an hour after Sunday's game and did not speak to the media.
Pelicans debut Mardi Gras uniforms
With Carnival season around the corner, New Orleans debuted its “City Edition” uniforms by Nike on Sunday at the Smoothie King Center.
New Orleans’ new uniforms maintained a festive flare, colored in Mardi Gras’ green, yellow and purple to represent the city's “bold” colors. The jersey reads “NOLA” in lively block lettering across the front and is coupled with uneven, “dancing” numbers meant to capture the city’s “energy."
The Pelicans will wear the celebratory Mardi Gras uniforms six times this season, including Sunday, and four times at the Smoothie King Center.