OAKLAND -- When the Warriors take the court Saturday and throw Kevon Looney and Jordan Bell at Dallas Mavericks center DeAndre Jordan, it will be another physical mismatch that leaves them longing for the day they can respond with DeMarcus Cousins.
Whether it’s a matter of weeks or more than a month, the Warriors are eager to have Cousins on an NBA court during a game. He might have felt like a luxury when he signed last July, but he now fills a need.
The Warriors are light up front, and at 6-foot-11 and 270, Cousins is 40 pounds heavier than anyone on the active roster. With a career scoring average of 21.5 points per game, he’ll also give the Warriors their best scoring threat at center since Joe Barry Carroll in the 1980s.
Not that the Warriors want or need Cousins jacking up shots from all over the court.
“It’s going to be an adjustment for sure,” Kevin Durant said, referring to Cousins being his team’s No. 1 option for most of his career. “From 18 shots a night, he might go down to 15. Those three shots, instead of shooting them, Cuz is going to make plays for others. That’s what happens with all of us. Instead of maybe our 20 shots a night, it goes down to 17. But those (other) three shots go to somebody else.
“That’s what the focus is. And Cuz knows that. We all know that when you play with good players, your stats are going to go down and your shot attempts.”
The Warriors aren’t getting much offense from big men Looney and Bell, as their combined scoring average is 8.8 points per game. Given the firepower from their teammates, scoring is less an issue than size, particularly now with 7-foot, 245-pound Damian Jones unavailable.
Looney and Bell each are listed at 6-9, and neither weighs more than 225. They’ve recently been outmuscled by the likes of Marc Gasol (7-1, 255), Karl-Anthony Towns (7-0, 248) and Rudy Gobert (7-1, 245). Next up is Jordan, who goes 6-11, 265.
The bonus is that Cousins is more than a big body capable of getting buckets, as Durant, who engaged in a spirited one-on-one session with Cousins on Friday, is quick to point out.
“He’s just an elite passer,” Durant said. “He’s smart. He knows how to play the game. He’s top level when it comes to thinking the game.”
The Warriors have started to visualize the ways they will use Cousins. Draymond Green concedes there will be a two-way adjustment, the team to Cousins’ talent and Cousins to the pace of the team. Coach Steve Kerr says they’ll have some actions ready when Cousins is cleared.
Until then, it’s all planning and preparation for the Warriors, and rehabilitation and the occasional one-on-one game for Cousins.
“It’s good for him to play one-on-one with Kevin,” Kerr said. “Every once in a while, he’ll get in a scrimmage with Draymond. Those guys do a good job of pushing him.”
Cousins defeated Durant in their post-practice game, punctuating the proceedings with a rousing dunk over Durant. Who won is, of course, trivial in the grand scheme. Such games are all part of Cousins’ recovery process.
“We were just playing around,” Durant said. “I don’t think he’s going 100 percent, and I know I’m not going 100 percent.”
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When the Warriors signed Cousins, the hope was that he'd be available in the second half of the season. Technically, that’s Game 42, on Jan. 11 against the Chicago Bulls, a little less than three weeks away.
Cousins has cleared every hurdle during his rehab. His conditioning is coming along. The light is yellow, and the Warriors want to be ready to unleash him when it turns green.
“He’s an All-Star, elite player,” Durant said. “They can pretty much fit into any system. And a player that good, we craft around him as well. It’s not like Cuz is coming to do what we say.
“We’ve got to meet each other halfway to make this thing work. We need Cuz to be the best version of himself and as teammates, we need to be the best version of ourselves to help everyone out.”