Skip Bayless says Magic Johnson not signing Boogie Cousins to the Lakers was a ‘huge mistake’

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Skip Bayless tells Holly Sonders and Shannon Sharpe why Magic Johnson 'swung and missed' on the opportunity to sign DeMarcus Cousins to the Los Angeles Lakers.

- There's one huge unknowable X factor about this discussion, and that is when and if he will come back to being Boogie Cousins.

SHANNON SHARP: Right.

- Right?

SHANNON SHARP: Right.

- He is posting workout videos, treadmill videos that look pretty impressive.

SHANNON SHARP: Right.

- Looks like he's moving pretty well.

SHANNON SHARP: Right.

- Looks like he's actually running on the treadmill. That's progress. That's positive signs, right?

- But what do you have to do in basketball? Sudden--

SKIP BAYLESS: Jump.

- And suddenly.

SKIP BAYLESS: Yeah.

- Everything is-- [TAPPING ON DESK]

SKIP BAYLESS: Yeah.

- But what happens when you got to--

SKIP BAYLESS: I don't know. I agree. It's scary.

SHANNON SHARP: Yes.

- It's the worst injury a basketball player can suffer, is the Achilles tendon. Yet, he says he will be ready for training camp. So if he is, Magic Johnson swung and missed on this one, if he is. And I don't know that, so there is that asterisk to the end of this discussion. So I don't know. You don't know. Nobody knows. DeMarcus Cousins does not know at this moment--

SHANNON SHARP: No.

- --how that's going to respond--

SHANNON SHARP: Correct.

- --when he has to cut and jump--

SHANNON SHARP: Correct.

- --on it for real. But to me, this was a huge mistake that equaled and canceled the enormous coup it was to sign LeBron James, because that was, like you said, that put Magic Johnson on the map as a general manager.

SHANNON SHARP: Yes.

- That is huge, man.

SHANNON SHARP: Yes.

- He is the biggest prize ever on the free agent market. Way to go, Magic. I mean, I'm not sure Magic had every-- I think LeBron just wanted to-- wanted to come to Hollywood.

- They say Magic was sitting in the driveway.

- OK, he was.

- At 12:01--

- No, I got it.

- -- he knocked on LeBron's door, but he was out there since 10:00.

- Well, OK. Did you see the pictures of that mansion in "USA Today?"

- Yeah! Have I seen it? Been there.

- Even got a cigar room. LeBron smokes cigars?

HOLLY SONDERS: It's necessary, so necessary.

- With a wine cellar that holds 1,500 bottles.

- Woo!

- You not invited, Skip.

- Well, they went up on the terrace.

- Yeah! Overlooking.

- Views of the Pacific and downtown LA. That will work. Right?

- Yeah!

- That's why LeBron said, give me Los Angeles.

- That's why we said, give us Los Angeles.

- Give us Los Angeles. Or Holly said, give her Los Angeles. Right? OK,

So maybe this happened so fast that Magic and Rob Pelinka got blindsided, because I'm talking about this happened in a matter of minutes.

SHANNON SHARP: Yes.

- And remember, they had a plan in place, and it might have been too hard to adjust quickly to plan B when all of a sudden, they had already committed some money, small money, to JaVale McGee. Obviously, taking him away from Golden State. And they had already committed a good chunk of money to KCP. And they had already acquired Lance. And they had already acquired Rondo and committed small amounts of one year money to this.

So the plan is working on schedule. And all of a sudden, they renounce Julius Randle. And within the hour, New Orleans says, thank you, we want Julius Randle. And all of a sudden, in that same flurry of minutes, they get a call, according to Marc Stein. And by the way, he is another highly decorated--

SHANNON SHARP: Absolutely.

- --highly incredible reporter for "The New York Times" now and "The Stein Line," his own website. And he's been doing this for years for espn.com. And he says that the Lakers did get a call from DeMarcus and/or his representative, and they had a quick shot. But you got to think fast, man. Do you really want-- you've got $5.6 million left in cap space.

SHANNON SHARP: Right.

- Golden State got him for that mid-level taxpayer's exemption of $5.3 million, so they're in the same ballpark.

SHANNON SHARP: Ballpark, correct.

- And if he's willing, hat in hand, to sort of crawl for that kind of money, because his market had completely dried up, and they got the call at least concurrent with Golden State getting a call, or maybe slightly before, it's a hard choice. But listen, I've told you again and again I am a DeMarcus Cousins fan. I believe in him. I know he's got maybe one screw loose up there, and I get it. The Achilles is the worst bet you can make, on especially a 6' 11" basketball player, but he is so gifted. When he is right, he is really, really dominant right.

SHANNON SHARP: Yeah.

- As you said, last year before he got hurt, January 26, he goes 25, 13, and 5 assists. And he shoots 35% from the 3-point line. And he averaged almost two steals and two blocks. Do you know how high that is? Those are dominating, superstar numbers.

- Skip, when he's at his absolute best, it's hard pressed to take anybody at the big over him other than Anthony Davis.

SKIP BAYLESS: Or Joel Embiid, he's in the same ballpark. No, I got it. I got it.

- Because you remember those games, Skip? He had a couple of game of 40-20. Guys don't get 40-20.

SKIP BAYLESS: You just don't. And I've been around DeMarcus enough to tell you, I judge people good heart, bad heart. He's got a good heart.

SHANNON SHARP: Yeah, he is.

- I know he's a little nutty sometimes and he loses control of his emotions. We get all that. Has he grown up some? I thought he grew up a little bit in--

SHANNON SHARP: In New Orleans.

- --the presence of Anthony Davis.

SHANNON SHARP: I did. I did. So did I. So did I.

- And yeah, speaking of Anthony Davis, did you see the report from a New Orleans TV station that Anthony Davis said no to DeMarcus?

SHANNON SHARP: Wow.

- Anthony Davis said no. Remember, just after he got hurt, they went ahead and offered him two more years of $40 million. I mean, it's $20 million and $20 million, so $40 million over two years. Well, he said no, because he thought he was worth more. And I'm sure right now he thinks he's worth a lot more, and maybe he regrets--

SHANNON SHARP: Well, New Orleans is going to be glad they didn't do that, because Anthony Davis makes all NBA team, he's going to be in line for $5.25 million.

- So does Anthony Davis hate DeMarcus? I don't think he does, because obviously, they're fellow Kentucky products. But they play the same position, and it's threatening. It's just like it's hard to make it work. So they go get Mirotic at the trade deadline. And all of a sudden, that clicked. And I believe Julius Randle will really click, because he's just low-post force, just a beast down low. And Anthony Davis can roam a little bit around the lane and shoot mid-range jumpers and occasional threes.

So that will click better. So I'm not surprised that Anthony said no, but did that give Magic pause, that they're hearing New Orleans is out on DeMarcus? Really? New Orleans is out. And the Achilles on top of that, and the baggage on top of that, maybe in the instant of the moment they said, no, we can't. We can't pull this trigger right now.

SHANNON SHARP: Right, exactly.

- But I still say big picture. I'm doing best case scenario. If you give DeMarcus, relatively healthy, to LeBron picking and rolling--

SHANNON SHARP: Oh, yeah.

- I love that, man.

SHANNON SHARP: Oh, he's a better-- he's a better Kevin Love.

- Oof! Is he!

- But let me ask you question then. How about this? Put it to you like this. Bigger bet moving forward, Boogie Cousins or Kawhi?

- Well, Kawhi's the biggest x-factor in sports right now. I'm going to say DeMarcus. I'm going to say Cousins.

- OK.

- I'm going to say Cousins.

- OK.

- I trust his psyche more than I trust Kawhi's psyche.

- But he has a more serious injury.

- He does. It's a terribly-- like I said, I don't even know how to do this debate. It's unwinnable right now, because we don't know the bottom line, which is, is he right or not? Is he ever going to get healthy or not?

- Especially Skip, that's awful presumptuous of Boogie, eight months after this injury, eight months. You know what happened? Adrian Peterson has ruined it for everybody, because everybody thinks now they can come off a catastrophic injury, Skip, and in six to eight months they'll be back. Because Adrian Peterson had his injury in January. The next thing you know, he's going for almost 2,100 yards the following season.

SKIP BAYLESS: It was a knee.

SHANNON SHARP: Right. But everybody-- oh, OK. But for a running back, that's the worst injury he could have.

SKIP BAYLESS: It was. It was. I agree.

- And everybody was like-- no, that's an anomaly. That doesn't normally happen. Boogie Cousins is 6' 11", probably 270 pounds. And you're going to ask him to still-- in order for him to be effective, Skip, he needs to maintain his quickness, because he can out-quick most bigs--

SKIP BAYLESS: He can.

- --especially outside.

SKIP BAYLESS: That is correct.

- So now, if that dissipates just a little, because that's what happens. As guys start to age, that lateral quickness, that first-step quickness starts to dissipate. And what made him great, now it brings him back to the pack. And all of a sudden, you like--

- OK. What did I tell you? The recent best case scenario I've seen with the Achilles injury is my Spurs, Rudy Gay. They took a chance on him, and he was coming right off the surgery, and he opened up training camp with the Spurs, and started playing early in the season. They limited his minutes, but I got to tell you, you wouldn't be watching these games like I would, because you think it's broccoli to watch the Spurs.

SHANNON SHARP: It is. It is. With no cheese.

- But Rudy Gay at-- what is Rudy? 6' 9"?

SHANNON SHARP: 6' 9". Yeah. 6' 8"-6' 9". Yeah.

- Right in there?

SHANNON SHARP: Yeah.

- He looked explosive right from jump. He looked like he could jump, and he was so good they have now resigned him for a second year. So that's the best case scenario.

SHANNON SHARP: Right.

- I don't know. Has the technology gotten better, the medical, you know, community gotten better with the Achilles? Maybe. I don't know.

SHANNON SHARP: But Boogie is 40 pounds heavier than Rudy Gay too.

SKIP BAYLESS: He is. He's much heavier.

SHANNON SHARP: Yeah.

- He might be more. He might be--

SHANNON SHARP: What do you think-- what do you think Rudy Gay weighs? 225? 230?

SKIP BAYLESS: Maybe.

- Boogie's at least 270, at the bare minimum.

SKIP BAYLESS: Yeah, I'm going to say maybe 50.

SHANNON SHARP: Yeah.

- No, I agree. But in the end, I'm doing best case. I'm trying to play to your heart instead of your head. If you had DeMarcus Cousins right, down the stretch next year with the Lakers and LeBron, you would be a Western Conference contender.