It happened in an instant.
In the time it took for an Achilles tendon to snap, everything was yanked away.
An MRI undergone late on Friday night revealed All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins tore the tendon in left foot, sidelining him for the remainder of the season and possibly as long as 10 months.
The injury comes just a week after he was elected as a first-time starter in the All-Star Game and was in the midst of a playoff hunt for the first time in his eight-year career.
Cousins averaged 25.4 points and 12.9 rebounds in his 47 games this season, teaming with Anthony Davis to carry New Orleans to its best start since the 2010-11 season.
Now, the Pelicans will be forced to forge ahead without him.
“We were just getting it,” Anthony Davis said in a somber Pelicans’ locker room. “We were just figuring everything out. That’s the tough part. Like I said, we just have to keep going and keep finding a way to win.”
The Pelicans bounced the red-hot Houston Rockets 115-113 on Friday night, tallying their seventh win in eight games and providing a glimpse into some starry possibilities, after proving capable of standing toe-to-toe with the league’s best.
But, when Cousins lunged and leapt for a loose ball in final seconds, he hit the floor with a thud. Minutes later he was carried off the court, casting a pall onto what should’ve been the Pelicans’ biggest celebration in nearly three years.
Coach Alvin Gentry confirmed Cousins injured his Achillies but was unable to officially define the severity after the game.
Sources later indicated to ESPN the MRI revealed a tear, and that he would undergo surgery immediately to repair and start the rehab process soon thereafter.
“He’s extremely important to us, so, yeah, we are scared about it,” Gentry said. “And, I feel horrible for him. Everything he’s done and what he’s tried to do for us and the improvements he’s made as a player, on and off the court, has just been great. So, I don’t want that to happen to a guy who is trying to better himself.”
Just moments before the injury, Cousins put the finishing touches on his second triple-double in the past three games, grabbing an offensive rebound and finishing a putback to ignite the arena by earning a four-point lead. It would provide the ultimate difference.
It’s uncertain if that’s the final memory Cousins will etch in a Pelicans uniform. The veteran is expected to miss anywhere between six and 10 months, according to ESPN, and will enter unrestricted free agency on July 1.
Sources indicated the Pelicans planned to deliver Cousins a maximum contract for five years and upwards of $175 million, but the devastating injury puts all of it into play.
For now, there are no answers.
The Pelicans will simply try to keep winning and reach their first playoff berth since 2015, but they’ll have to do it without Cousins.
“It’s just next man up,” Davis said.