As the names lit up their Western Conference foes, all was quiet in New Orleans this weekend.
[Update, 7:40 p.m; July 2, 2018: DeMarcus Cousins has agreed to a deal with the Golden State Warriors, according to multiple reports.]
Three of the NBA’s marquee free agents didn’t even wait until daybreak to re-sign with their current teams, and then LeBron James dropped the biggest headline of the year by agreeing to a four-year, $154 million deal with the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday evening.
He followed Kevin Durant, Chris Paul and Paul George, who all opted to re-up with their respective franchises in the West.
But, DeMarcus Cousins remained and wasn’t one of them. And his profile only grew larger by doing so.
By Sunday evening, less than 24 hours into free agency, Cousins was the most prominent name remaining on the open market. The four-time All-Star and two-time All-NBA center is now seeing his name being bandied about, despite recovering from a torn Achilles tendon which is expected to cost him at least the first few months of the 2018-19 season.
League sources confirmed reports the Lakers are targeting Cousins and have become New Orleans’ primary competition to re-sign the 27-year old who is an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career.
ESPN reported Cousins received phone calls from both the Lakers and Pelicans — taken from his hometown of Mobile, Alabama — when NBA free agency opened in the final hour of Saturday night. And the Lakers offering only became more attractive Sunday, when James decided to switch teams for the third time in his career and make his first move to the West.
News of the Lakers' interest appeared just as Cousins’ market appeared to dry up on Saturday night, when the Dallas Mavericks signed center DeAndre Jordan to a one-year, $24.1 million deal. It eliminated one of the few teams possessing cap space that also had a reported interest in Cousins.
Instead, the Lakers emerged, with various reports focused on teaming Cousins with James on a short-term deal. But now that James’ decision is made, it at least allows Pelicans’ general manager Dell Demps the ability to understand the scope of the market competition facing him.
Otherwise, the Pelicans remained quiet in the opening hours of free agency, faced with an uncertain amount of salary cap room to operate with, until the futures of Cousins and Rajon Rondo are decided.
No news percolated about potential signings, even as sources indicated the Pelicans were earnestly working the free agent and trade market in search of impactful players.
A source familiar with the situation expected the Pelicans to play their free agency slower than most teams, due to the luxury tax uncertainty they face and previous success of finding veterans on minimum contracts at the tail end of the free agency period.
But, after compiling their most successful season in a decade, thanks to 48 regular-season wins and a playoff sweep over the Portland Trail Blazers, the Pelicans climb up the Western Conference only got steeper this weekend.
So, Demps will need to act in order to keep up. It’s just not certain when they will make the moves.