OAKLAND -- DeMarcus Cousins is approaching the end of his comeback trail. The Warriors big man will cross the finish line Friday night against the Los Angeles Clippers, missing his former team by roughly 48 hours.
A return Wednesday against the New Orleans Pelicans would have been epic, a layup storyline capable of writing itself.
Cousins was superb after the Pelicans acquired him in a trade with the Kings, especially during a 2017-18 season in which he was consistently dominant. Until, of course, an Achilles tendon tore last February. That brutal turn ended his season and crashed his free agent market, prompting Cousins to sign the mid-level exception with the Warriors.
Cousins thought at a few points he’d end up in New Orleans long term, but that didn’t happen. Things got awkward between him and the Pelicans, with some discrepancy about whether they even offered him a contract.
All that would’ve added juice to Cousins’ already anticpated debut … if it would’ve happened Wednesday night.
“Everybody knows that DeMarcus wears his emotions on his sleeve,” said Pelicans guard Ian Clark, who played with Cousins in New Orleans and was a Warrior before that. “He’s not going to sugarcoat anything. I know that, coming back Friday, he probably wanted to play tonight. He’ll have another opportunity (against us) in New Orleans.”
That will happen April 9, but Cousins doesn’t need rivalries to create a buzz. There's intrigue to spare surrounding how he’ll fit in with a Warriors team that already employs Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.
That has been the case since Cousins signed with the Warriors, though the initial hype piped down during the mundane routine of his rehab. Interest has re-piqued just prior to his formal Warriors debut.
“Everybody’s curious, but if you’ve been watching him over the years, you know what he can bring to a team,” Clark said. “They have a lot of talent already. Adding him is going to make (the Warriors) that much more dynamic.”
Clark has the inside dirt on how his friend and former teammate will fit in with the defending champs. He cautioned against sky-high expectations, saying it’ll take time for him to get up to speed after nearly a calendar year without playing an NBA game.
Cousins doesn’t have to be a savior on this loaded team with four perennial All-Stars, even though this Warriors season hasn’t been silky smooth.
“Those guys will take a lot of the load off of him,” Clark said. “He doesn’t have to get 20 [points] and 15 [rebounds] every night. If he’s efficient on the floor and making the right passes, I think you’ll see the great player he is.”
Warriors coach Steve Kerr knew he was getting a great player on the cheap. The real question was how the mercurial Cousins would fit into the Warriors dynamic. That’s why he spoke with Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry -- formerly Kerr’s top assistant -- before Cousins signed up.
“We talked a little bit,” Kerr said. “He told me that he enjoyed coaching him and that they got along well and that I wouldn’t have any problem with him. I know Alvin awfully well, and I know he would be open with me on everything.”
Gentry had nothing but nice things to say about his former player, and said he would’ve approached Wednesday’s game the same whether or not Cousins played. He’s too consumed with his team to wonder how Cousins will be as a Warrior but has confidence he’ll be a good one.
“He’s a great player,” Gentry said. “He wants to win and has a talent level that people don’t understand sometimes. He’s a terrific player. I think the one thing people are missing the boat on is people wondering how he’s going to fit in. He’ll be great. He’ll be fine.”