DeMarcus Cousins fulfills NBA Finals dream in Warriors' Game 1 loss

DeMarcus Cousins fulfills NBA Finals dream in Warriors' Game 1 loss

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.

[RELATED: Kerr believes Warriors 'have enough' to win without Durant]

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.

Watch footage of young Klay Thompson meeting Michael Jordan in 1998

Watch footage of young Klay Thompson meeting Michael Jordan in 1998

Klay Thompson has been around the NBA his entire life, both during his father Mychal Thompson’s career and now as an All-Star guard for the Golden State Warriors.

In May, Thompson spoke to the media about the first time he met Michael Jordan, when he was at a Portland Trail Blazers game in 1998. Klay and his family were living in Lake Oswego, Ore. at the time, and his dad was able to get the boys a chance to meet MJ and Scottie Pippen after the game.

Footage has now surfaced of that encounter, featuring the trio of Thompson boys meeting the NBA Hall of Famers for the first time.

Despite the lack of sound, it’s clear that the boys were blown away -- as just about any basketball fan at the time would be -- by the chance to meet NBA royalty.

[RELATED: Warriors' Klay Thompson will return 'late next season,' father Mychal says]

Klay, of course, had the least star-struck reaction as he just got his autograph and walked away, while his brothers stuck around.

I'm sure Jordan had no idea that he was signing an autograph for a kid who would grow up to win three NBA championships and receive two All-NBA accolades, all before his 30th birthday.

NBA rumors: Lakers to sign Dwight Howard as DeMarcus Cousins replacement

NBA rumors: Lakers to sign Dwight Howard as DeMarcus Cousins replacement

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is just a movie, but this is for real: Dwight Howard is expected to be back in Los Angeles and sign with the Lakers, six years after his first run in purple and gold. 

Howard's agent told The Athletic's Shams Charania the center has completed a buyout with the Grizzlies and will sign with the Lakers once he clears waivers. 

This comes after the news that former Warriors and Kings center DeMarcus Cousins tore his ACL nearly two weeks ago. Cousins, who signed a one-year contract with the Lakers this offseason, was expected to be L.A.'s starting center this season, but that now could fall to Howard. 

Though ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Howard's contract with the Lakers is non-guaranteed, it's likely he makes the team. L.A. currently has just one natural center on their roster, former Warrior JaVale McGee, and he's better suited as a lob threat off the bench. 

That's the problem. McGee and Howard essentially fill the same roles for the Lakers. They both can swat shots and finish dunks. Besides that, they don't offer much. 

Howard also has dealt with multiple injuries in the past and only played in nine games last season with the Washington Wizards due to a gluteal injury. In his last healthy season, the 33-year-old averaged 16.6 points and 12.5 rebounds for the Charlotte Hornets during the 2017-18 campaign. 

Replacing Cousins with McGee is a downgrade for the Lakers, but an upgrade for the Warriors and Kings when it comes to playoff seeding. Golden State is viewed as having a similar regular-season record as L.A. next season while the Kings are looking to end a 13-year playoff drought. 

[RELATED: Six Warriors storylines you should watch for next season]

The last time Howard was a Laker, things went haywire on and off the court in Hollywood. Will the script be flipped this time? 

Howard could have quite the redemption story, but it would be a bold bet by an outsider.