OAKLAND – It took nine seasons for DeMarcus Cousins to participate in an NBA playoff game, and he lasted all of 25 minutes before limping off the floor with a torn quadriceps muscle.
Less than five weeks later, he’s inching his way back to the Warriors. There is no timetable for his return, but coach Steve Kerr acknowledged Friday that the 6-foot-11, 265-pound center likely will return to the starting lineup before Kevin Durant.
“He’s working really hard and he’s been in the training room religiously over the last month,” Kerr said. “And now he’s getting out on the court. So he is ahead of Kevin, in terms of the ability to get out on the court and run and really get a good basketball workout.”
While Durant has not returned to the practice court, Cousins has been cleared for contact. It’s conceivable, if not likely, he could return should the Western Conference finals against Portland be extended deep into next week.
Both players are scheduled to be re-evaluated next Thursday.
Cousins made his postseason debut on April 13 in Game 1 of the first round against the Clippers and played 21 minutes before fouling out. Two days later, he started Game 2 and sustained the injury four minutes after tipoff.
Asked Friday if he might return “soon,” Cousins grinned, grunted and shrugged and stepped into the elevator.
As was the case early this season when he was rehabilitating his torn left Achilles’ tendon, Cousins’ frustration is as transparent as his eagerness to play.
“He’s a big guy, so conditioning is tougher for big guys than guards,” Kerr said. “He’s got to continue to work on the stuff he’s doing, which is going hard on the bike and getting sprints on the floor. When he’s ready, we’ll know he’s ready.”
Following the initial diagnosis, it was expected that Cousins would miss at least six weeks, which falls on Memorial Day – one day after Game 7 (if necessary) of the conference finals and three days before the NBA Finals begin on May 30.