Dominique Wilkins Rumors
Dominique Wilkins could hear the melancholy in DeMarcus Cousins’ voice last June. Five months removed from a season-ending Achilles injury, Cousins’ career was suddenly in doubt: Would anyone pick him up in free agency? Could he play at an All-Star level again? During that phone conversation, Wilkins told Cousins not to worry about his critics because “no one knows your heart like you do.” The Hall of Famer’s message resonated. Twenty-six years earlier, Wilkins was 32 when he tore his right Achilles tendon, only to come back nine months later and make two more All-NBA teams.
“People always doubt people first before they give people credit for how quickly they can come back from those types of injuries, but it depends on the person,” Wilkins said. “I think DeMarcus is a guy who’s put the work in and is going to be fine.” The breakthrough for Cousins came in the past couple of weeks, when he started to show flashes of dominance in workouts. Finally, after almost 12 months of rehab, Cousins looked self-assured as he leapt for rebounds and threw down dunks. Instead of worrying about his surgically repaired left Achilles tendon, the four-time All-Star was able to play on instinct.
Through a handful of phone calls, DeMarcus Cousins received a blueprint on how to overcome the biggest challenge of his nine-year NBA career. Well before he could even begin his rehab, Cousins contacted one of the NBA’s best dunkers (former Atlanta Hawks forward Dominique Wilkins), one of the league’s best scorers (former Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant), a former teammate (San Antonio Spurs forward Rudy Gay) and a dependable NBA role player (Dallas Mavericks guard Wesley Mathews). Shortly after the Warriors signed Cousins to a one-year $5.3 million deal last July with their mid-level taxpayer exception, Cousins spoke with the Warriors’ other free agent acquisition (Jonas Jerebko).
“I wasn’t really looking for a specific answer to get through it,” Cousins said. “I wanted to see what each guy’s mindset was and compare it to my own.” Each players’ journey has been different. They mostly stressed similar messages, though. While Wilkins advised Cousins “not to listen to the critics,” Gay instructed Cousins, “don’t feel sorry for yourself.” A few months following Cousins’ surgery on Jan. 31, 2018, Mathews told him “to take his time.” Shortly after the two became teammates last summer, Jerebko argued the same thing.
“I’ve never stood up in seat at the scorer’s table, for anybody. I’ve never stood up,” Wilkins, a fellow member of the 25K club, recently told The Athletic. “I stood up the last five minutes, like, ‘I hope he gets these last two points.’ Like, ‘C’mon. He played for that team. Let him score!’ They were playing D on him… Got it on a dunk. That’s the perfect story.”
Have you guys ever talked to each other, just chatted about dunks? Carter: All the time. Wilkins: Yeah. Yeah. Carter: All-star. The playoffs. With (Donovan) Mitchell, from Utah. Wilkins: The thing that amazes me, one of the things I talk about all the time is how big guys get all the way to the basket and don’t finish. They throw it out to a shooter. I mean, you’ve got guys now, 6-10, 6-11, and doing that. Like, what?
Wilkins: And your balance is there. I started jumping off two feet by accident. And it was against Milwaukee. I went baseline. First I faked it and I came back down and I jumped, and Bob Lanier was coming. I brought it back and came back, I didn’t realize what I did until I saw the film. Bob Lanier didn’t speak to me for nine years. What? Carter: Same thing with Zo. Wilkins: He said, ‘I didn’t want to speak to you. I just started liking you again.’ I said, ‘Why?’ He said, ‘When I had to go home and my daughter said, ‘How you let that little skinny kid dunk you?’ I said, ‘I hated your ass.’ Carter: Zo didn’t talk to me for five years. From that dunk.