DeMarcus Cousins injury forces Warriors' return to center by committee

DeMarcus Cousins injury forces Warriors' return to center by committee

OAKLAND — As the Warriors awaited rehabbing center DeMarcus Cousins’ services in the first three months of the regular season, they trotted out a center-by-committee approach.

The strategy, which let the opponent dictate the starting center, helped Golden State navigate through the onset of the season. 

Now, with Cousins injuring his quad in a 135-131 loss to the Clippers in Game 2 of their NBA playoff first-round series, the Warriors are back to a familiar plan. 

Three minutes into his second career postseason game, Cousins tumbled to the ground as he reached for a loose ball. After the injury, Cousins tried to walk under his own power, avoiding help from his teammates and limping to the locker room.

He didn’t return, and league sources confirmed to NBC Sports Bay Area that there's fear that Cousins might have torn his left quad. One source said the center's prospects are "not good at all."

"There's a pretty significant quad injury," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said after the loss. "We'll get an MRI tomorrow. But he's going to be out for, I'll just say a while." 

The void left by Cousins put the Warriors in a familiar scenario, as Kevon Looney, Andrew Bogut and Jordan Bell each took turns trying to fill in at center. Looney did the most damage, finishing with a career-high 19 points and five rebounds. He did most of his work in the second quarter, scoring 10 points and adding three rebounds as Golden State outscored LA 40-15.

Through two playoff games, Looney is plus-31 from the floor, averaging 12.5 points and five rebounds in 18.2 minutes. 

"My role pretty much stays the same," Looney said. "I'll get my same role, same minutes. I'll probably get a little more time but just bring the energy, try to be a little more aggressive when I get the ball down in the paint."

As Looney's role increases, so will that of Jordan Bell, whose minutes have dwindled over the last eight games after he was suspended for a road game in Memphis. 

Following the team's preseason finale against the Lakers six months ago, Kerr proclaimed Damian Jones the Warriors' starting center out of training camp while Cousins continued to rehab. During the ensuing two months, Jones, Looney and Bell alternated the starting role.

Now, with Jones injured for the season and Andrew Bogut back in the fold, the team has an idea of how its lineup will look. 

"It'll still be matchup-based," Bogut said. "But I anticipate probably starting games, playing the first three minutes and then coming out."

Cousins, if initial fears prove true following Tuesday's MRI, will begin another extensive rehab process. It will take at least three months, depending upon the extent of the tear. 

Over a year ago, Cousins -- then with the Pelicans -- tore his left Achilles tendon while reaching for a loose ball in the waning moments of a midseason win over the Rockets. 

Then just months away from unrestricted free agency, Cousins went into his rehab not knowing if he would get a fraction of the super-max deal he expected entering last season. Now, more than 14 months later, he might find himself in the same position heading into what is sure to be an interesting summer. 

"I know it's frustrating for him," Looney said. "I've been through something like that, getting hurt, getting all the way back and then getting hurt again, so I know how frustrating it is, and he is a resilient guy. He's been through adversity before, and I know he's going to bounce back."

[RELATED: Nobody can be certain about Warriors anymore after Game 2]

Throughout the season, many of the Warriors used Cousins' return as a means of motivation to get the center who never played in a postseason game a chance to win a ring and get paid. With Cousins out, the Warriors find themselves in familiar terrain, and will have to fill the hole at the five like they did during the onset of the season: By committee. 

"We'll rally behind him," Warriors guard Klay Thompson said. "Tell him it’s far from the end of the world, tell him he has so much great basketball ahead of him.

"He'll bounce back. I know he will. He's a fighter."

Andrew Bogut explains how becoming father changed his life perspective

Andrew Bogut explains how becoming father changed his life perspective

Programming note: Watch the pregame edition of Warriors Outsiders on Wednesday night at 6, streaming live on the MyTeams app.

Andrew Bogut and his wife have two kids. The oldest is about 2 1/2 years old, and the youngest is about 9 months old.

That means the big man wasn't a father during his first run with the Warriors, which ended in July 2016 when he was traded to Dallas.

“Having two kids totally changed his life,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr told Ethan Strauss of The Athletic. “He’s no longer a cynic. He’s just as smart and wise and fun.

"He’s always been a really good dude.”

Bogut agrees that being a father has changed his outlook on life.

“If you do lose or play bad, you get to go home to two kids who don’t give a s--t about it, so it’s a pretty cool thing," Bogut explained to The Athletic. "You can get home from whatever you’re doing, and when you’ve got two kids and one of them s--ts themselves, and you’ve got to change the diaper, you kind of forget about all the bad things you’re going through.”

Speaking as somebody who became a father three months ago, this is absolutely correct.

Bogut -- who started five games during the regular season -- jumped center in Games 3 and 4 of the NBA playoff series against the Clippers in place of the injured DeMarcus Cousins:
Game 3 = eight points, 14 rebounds, five assists, steal, block
Game 4 = eight points, 10 rebounds, four assists

He's helping on the court and in the locker room, where he's respected by all.

[RELATEDBogut gives interesting response to Embiid's 3-1 Dubs joke]

“He’s still an a--hole, that ain't changed,” Kevon Looney told The Athletic, while smiling. “But he was always nice to his teammates, and he’s great to me. I say he’s probably the smartest, one of the smartest basketball players I ever played with.

"Him and Andre [Iguodala] and Draymond [Green], IQ level is crazy.”

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Rockets GM Daryl Morey agrees facing Warriors in semis could be better

Rockets GM Daryl Morey agrees facing Warriors in semis could be better

Programming note: Watch the pregame edition of Warriors Outsiders on Wednesday night at 6, streaming live on the MyTeams app.

On the last day of the NBA's regular season, the following two things happened:
1) The Blazers -- who rested their top guys and only played six players -- erased a 28-point deficit and beat the Kings
2) The Nuggets -- who were down at home by 11 points with a little over three minutes left -- stormed back and beat the Wolves

As a result, Denver finished with the No. 2 seed and Portland with the No. 3 seed.

The main takeaway? The Rockets entered the playoffs at No. 4 seed, which meant a potential showdown with the Warriors in the Western Conference Semifinals. It became impossible for there to be a rematch between Golden State and Houston in the West Finals.

Rockets GM Daryl Morey was recently a guest on The Bill Simmons Podcast and he was asked if potentially facing the Warriors one round earlier could actually be beneficial.

"It's very hard to know. We can't control it. To be frank, we don't spend a lot of time on it but we have talked about it internally," Morey said. "It could work in our favor but it's very hard to know.

"As much as we could get injured, so could they. All I know is that we pretty much knew we were gonna have to beat them, so does the order really matter? Probably not. It would have been nice to get homecourt like last year.

"I think that could be a big factor -- last year at Oracle, their fans are great -- I do think not having homecourt is a factor. I do think we're a better team going into the series. Maybe our odds are similar to last year.

"We do feel very strongly we have a real shot at it. But obviously, they're the champs three of the last four years for a reason."

Simmons followed up by saying: "I was looking at it more like from a health standpoint. The longer the playoffs go, and especially, you know Chris (Paul) has battled nagging injuries his entire career -- you just know that if you can get through this Utah series..."

"We are slightly older than them, so yeah it could work in our favor, yeah," Morey said.

[RELATEDBogut gives interesting response to Embiid's 3-1 Dubs joke]

The health variable is a very fair point. The Rockets currently are up three-games-to-none on the Jazz in their first-round series. And if they complete the sweep in Utah on Monday night, they will get a solid chunk of time to rest before a potential series against the Dubs starts this weekend (assuming the Warriors beat the Clippers in Game 5 on Wednesday).

The rematch seems inevitable at this point and the basketball world deserves both teams to be fully healthy.

Make it happen, Basketball Gods.

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