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Elton Brand confession about personal Achilles injury looms ominously over DeMarcus Cousins remaining career

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Brand was never the same player following his ruptured tendon, but can modern science save Boogie from a similar fate?

Houston Rockets vs New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Over the last few days, I’m sure you’ve probably heard or read someone compare DeMarcus Cousins to Elton Brand. I hope you were paying close attention because Brand himself recently admitted his torn Achilles derailed his career.

Before the start of the 2007-08 NBA season, Brand ruptured his left Achilles tendon during a typical August workout. Although most surmised he would miss close to a full calendar year, preliminary medical reports predicted Brand would miss only six months. That meant a return after the New Year, specifically sometime during the following February.

Brand didn’t miss the mark by all that much, returning on April 2, 2008. He appeared in the final eight games on the schedule for the Los Angeles Clippers, but as the statistics, minutes and roles went on to prove in proceeding seasons, he failed to regain that pre-injury form.

NBA Finals Game 2: Los Angeles Lakers v Boston Celtics Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The two-time NBA All-Star and Rookie of the Year recipient in 2000 told Marc Spears and Amin Elhassan on The Hoop Collective podcast that he was never the same player following his Achilles injury.

“The most frustrating part was the injuries,” said Elton Brand. “That Achilles really changed the trajectory of my career. That whole kinetic chain: once you get the calf, it’s the ankle, the knee, the hips, the back. No one’s really recovered from that Achilles injury and come back at the same level. That was really frustrating because I wanted to give Philly more. We made it to the playoffs. I did okay. I had a few serviceable seasons, but I wasn’t the same guy. I still had the atrophy on my left calf — which was my power leg — from that Achilles. And then, quickly, I had a torn labrum right after that. You know, just the injuries, and that happens.”

DeMarcus Cousins, like Elton Brand, shoots with his right hand so we should assume his preferred jumping leg is also his left leg —- the same leg that suffered the Achilles injury. Although Cousins was never a bonafide leaper, neither was Brand.

Brand didn’t display an above average vertical in his Los Angeles or Chicago days, right? What he did was move well for a guy carrying a large frame and relied on an incredible 7’5.5’’ wingspan.

Unless I’m missing something, these details sound awfully similar to pre-injury Cousins. Boogie was measured with a 7’5.75’’ wingspan and on-lookers have consistently remarked how agile he appears considering his size.

Yeah, ugh, but now for some good news. Brand’s injury occurred a little over ten years back. While that may not seem all that long ago, it is when considering the medical advancements made since that time. Studies have discovered that nutrition probably plays a key role in the healing process, but more importantly, there are now improved surgical procedures and better recovery times.

A ruptured Achilles tendon is serious, but it’s nowhere near the same surgery it was a few years back. The recovery time has been cut in half with medical advancements and Gay is feeling good about his future.

“I feel like I’m way ahead of schedule,” Gay said. “I’m doing things now that I didn’t think I would be able to do this early. I’ve even surprised doctors, so that says a lot.”

During his recovery, Gay has spoken to Kobe Bryant and Wes Matthews to help gather information on the injury, but each injury is specific to the player and how their body responds to treatment.

Guess who developed a bond with Rudy Gay while as teammates for the Sacramento Kings? This is important because although ESPN’s Kevin Pelton mentioned only four out of 18 players met or exceeded their Achilles injury projections since 1990, Gay was one of them — a phone call away for Cousins.

Before his latest right heel injury, Gay was in the midst of a fine campaign in San Antonio, with per 36 minute data mirroring his pre-injury days. While he wasn’t playing big minutes — he’s only surpassed the 30-minute barrier three times, the hope is he’ll be able to handle a bigger workload in the future.

This, honestly, is the best case scenario for DeMarcus Cousins and likely the New Orleans Pelicans, who are probably leaning towards re-signing him this summer. That Boogie is available and performs admirably for much of the next regular season, and then further down the road, he is able to return to a larger, more customary role.

Question is, what’s the likelihood of a happy ending in New Orleans...where Eric Gordon once fell off and was never able to climb back atop his perch as one of the premier shooting guards...where Tyreke Evans once missed a countless number of games due to knee problems that wouldn’t go away...where Jrue Holiday once suffered through years with a troublesome left tibia...where Ryan Anderson once lost his outside shooting touch for an extended period of time after an unfortunate spinal injury...where Quincy Pondexter once sustained such extensive knee damage that his career is all but over?