When DeMarcus Cousins went down with his achilles injury last night, every Utah Jazz fan felt a pit in their stomach. Not because their team is chasing the Pelicans in the standings and it provides an odd opportunity to catch, but because they’ve been there. That feeling that a lot of Pelicans’ fans are feeling wondering, “What does this mean for our season?” or “Can DeMarcus return to his All-Star play after an injury like this?” is terrible.
In Game 1 of the Western Conference playoffs, the Utah Jazz lost their stretch big to injury. Mehmet Okur went down with the achilles injury similar to DeMarcus Cousins. It was a non-contact injury and you could tell immediately that it was serious. Okur would later say that he thought someone kicked him in the back of his leg. He was sure someone had to have caused it. Looking at the replays you can see that it wasn’t the case.
Mehmet Okur was 30 years old when the injury occurred. That’s 3 years older than DeMarcus Cousins. Mehmet Okur wouldn’t play his next game until 8 months later in December. He would play only 13 games before ultimately being shutdown for the remainder of the 2010-2011 season, the same season in which Utah traded away Deron Williams and lost Jerry Sloan to retirement. Yeah ... it was some year.
Okur would undergo a long rehab that didn’t prove fruitful. He tried to return earlier than expected as Utah needed his services in a tumultuous season that would end with Deron Williams being traded, Big Al Jefferson struggling to integrate into Utah’s offense, and Jerry Sloan retiring.
Before the injury Okur was averaging 13 points and 7 rebounds a game for the season; even better, Okur was averaging 17 points and 7 rebounds during the two months just before gis injury. Unfortunately, Father Time and Achilles are undefeated, and Mehmet Okur looked like a shell of his former Money Man self when he returned from his achilles injury. He averaged only 7.6 points and 5.8 rebounds while shooting 37% from the field and 31% from three.
Mehmet Okur would be traded a year later to the New Jersey Nets. With the New Jersey Nets, Mehmet Okur played in only 17 games before being shutdown because of a nagging injury. That same season in March of 2012, Okur would be traded with Shawne Williams to the Portland Trailblazers along with the Nets 1st round draft pick for Gerald Wallace. Ironically, that 1st round draft pick became Damian Lillard. Okur would be waived and ultimately retire from basketball.
The rehab from an achilles injury is rough for a big man. DeMarcus Cousins is 27 right now and when he ultimately returns he’ll be 28 and a half. That’s only a year and a half away from the same age Mehmet Okur was when he suffered his injury. That’s why every Utah Jazz can easily put aside their past beefs with DeMarcus Cousins and feel a sense of dread for New Orleans Pelicans’ fans. We saw our Money Man, Mehmet Okur, never make the full recovery. It changed a significant part of our plans so much so that he ultimately was involved in a cost cutting trade a year later. DMC’s numbers are much higher than Mehmet’s were the year he got injured, but if Okur’s numbers took a dive after his return from injury, there could be a downturn for DMC. Which Pelicans fans don’t deserve.
The Pelicans were figuring out the twin towers experiment. They had been improving from game to game. They were fun to watch. Then it’s gone in the blink of an eye. If there’s one part of the story to Okur going down that’s worth imparting it’s this: in that playoff series against Denver, other Jazz players stepped up. One in particular helped the Jazz so much that Carmelo Anthony said his name multiple times at the press conference after losses: Fesenko. Fesenko. Fesenko. Fesenko. Kyrylo Fesenko stepped up and helped the Jazz upset the Denver Nuggets while undermanned. So while Mehmet Okur went down, the team rallied behind that injury and played determined basketball. For the sakes of Pelicans fans, we hope New Orleans does the same for you.