TORONTO -- DeMarcus Cousins has waited his entire life for a chance to step on the floor in an NBA Finals game. After a devastating left quad injury on April 15, it looked like he may have missed his best chance of making his dream a reality.
Six weeks later, the 6-foot-11 center pulled off one of the most improbable comebacks in NBA history.
When the Warriors opened the second quarter of Game 1 against the Toronto Raptors on Thursday night, the four-time All-Star was on the floor.
“It felt good, it felt good to be a part of that energy tonight,” Cousins said following the 118-109 loss. “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I don’t take any of these moments for granted. Being out there on the floor tonight, playing in this atmosphere was an incredible feeling. I’m extremely happy to be a part of it and I enjoyed the moment.”
He played four minutes in his first stint, scoring two points on a pair of free throws. He added two assists and was a plus-two in his time on the court. More importantly, Cousins said he didn’t feel any pain in his left quad, which appeared completely detached when he originally pulled up lame in the first round of the playoffs.
The star big man made a second appearance in the first half, playing eight seconds right before the intermission.
Despite trailing late, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr chose to turn back to his big to start the fourth quarter. He played close to four minutes again, finishing the night with three points and two assists in eight minutes.
“I thought DeMarcus did a really nice job, made some great passes, we could run some offense through him,” Kerr said. “It’s early in the process for him. He played eight minutes and I thought his minutes were good, but it’s a huge adjustment after a six-week, seven-week absence, especially at this level in the NBA Finals against a team that is pretty fast already.”
For Cousins, it’s on him to fit in. The Warriors aren’t your standard 57-win team. They are the two-time reigning champs and they just cruised through the first three rounds of the playoffs.
He can’t come in expecting to carry a huge load, either as a scorer or in the minutes department. So far, his head appears to be in the right place.
“Just come in and play the right way, that’s what I try to do every time I step on the floor,” Cousins said.
Cousins looked rusty at times, but he ran the floor well for a player with two major leg injuries in just over a year. Golden State fed him in the post and allowed him to play facilitator. While he finished with just a pair of assists, he easily could have added two or three more.
“I thought he did really well and we’ll look at the tape, and we’ll see what we decide to do with his role going forward,” Kerr added.
With a two-day break between games, Cousins will have another practice or two to find his rhythm with the team. Whether or not that equates to more minutes moving forward is unknown at this time. Kerr has to walk a fine line between bringing a player back into the fold and winning games in the NBA Finals.