DeMarcus Cousins' playoff return 'highly unlikely,' but door left open

DeMarcus Cousins' playoff return 'highly unlikely,' but door left open

OAKLAND — Injured center DeMarcus Cousins joined the Warriors on Tuesday for the first time since rupturing his quad last week. 

But don't take that as a sign he'll be back this season. 

"Who knows," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said after practice. "But at this point, conservatively, it's highly unlikely."

Cousins, who injured his quad in Game 2 last Monday, participated in the team's morning film session and went through a rehab session with Warriors director of sports medicine and performance Rick Celebrini. Following practice, Cousins made a brief appearance on the floor with Warriors staffers without a limp.

In the days following his injury, Cousins has been away from the team as the Warriors traveled to Los Angeles for Games 3 and 4 of the NBA first-round playoff series against the Clippers. For the time being, Golden State is functioning as if Cousins will not be back in the near future. 

"Not great, as you'd expect," Kerr when he asked about the prospects of Cousins' return this season. "But it was good to see him, obviously — we've been gone six days. We'll see what happens in a few weeks once we have a better sense of his healing and his ability to maybe get on the court."

The Warriors didn't put an exact timetable on Cousins' return following the injury, holding out hope the big man could make a return.

“You're probably looking at a couple months’ recovery, so it's unlikely," Kerr said last week. "But Rick told me that there are occasions where that injury heals faster. So we're leaving the door open, obviously."

This season has been arguably the roughest of Cousins' career. After tearing his Achilles last January, he signed with the Warriors for $5.3 million when he said he didn't field any significant offers in free agency.

As a result of the injury, Cousins missed the first 45 games of this season, making his Warriors debut Jan. 18 against the Clippers. In his final 15 games of the season, he averaged 17.3 points (on 51 percent shooting), 8.4 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game in hopes of a summer payday.

[RELATED: Cousins breaks silence after injury]

In just his second career postseason game, his hopes for a big contract this summer took a hit with the quad injury. 

"More than anything, I'm just crushed for DeMarcus," Kerr said last week. "He's been waiting his whole career for [the playoffs], and then the second game, he goes down after putting all that work in to recover from the Achilles. And he's had a great season for us — he's really come along the last month or so. I just feel bad for him."

Warriors get great news about $17.2M Andre Iguodala trade exception

Warriors get great news about $17.2M Andre Iguodala trade exception

The $17.2 million trade exception the Warriors received as part of the Andre Iguodala trade with the Memphis Grizzlies last summer arguably is Golden State's most prized asset at the moment. With it, they could absorb any player's 2020-21 salary up to that amount.

At the time of the trade, the exception was set to expire on July 7 -- precisely 36 hours after the start of free agency. Since it wasn't eligible to be used prior to the conclusion of the league moratorium at noon (ET) on July 6, the Warriors would have been in a significant time crunch within which to use it. Once the season was indefinitely paused do the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, however, it wasn't clear if the expiration deadline would be pushed back, or if Golden State simply would be out of luck.

Well, not to worry, Warriors fans. The NBA has done the right thing.

According to ESPN's Bobby Marks, the Warriors' $17.2 million trade exception now will expire on Oct. 25. Free agency is slated to begin on Oct. 18, meaning Golden State actually will have a larger window within which to use the trade exception than the team would have in a traditional year.

[RELATED: Why Warriors should pursue Gasol with mid-level exception]

Considering the Warriors' 2019-20 season now is completed, the extension of the expiration deadline could be a huge benefit. They now have several more months to plan out their free-agency strategy -- and potentially pre-arrange a transaction with one or more teams.

There is no guarantee Golden State will use the full value of the trade exception -- the Warriors already are expected to be a tax-paying team -- but at the very least, this confirms the Dubs will have an opportunity to utilize an asset they most definitely were counting on.

[RUNNIN' PLAYS PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Why Warriors should pursue Marc Gasol at beginning of NBA free agency

Why Warriors should pursue Marc Gasol at beginning of NBA free agency

What will be an abnormally long offseason for the Warriors officially has begun. Their 2019-20 season is over, and the next one isn't expected to begin until December at the earliest.

It's a critical offseason for Golden State, as the team hopes to establish the 2019-20 campaign as an outlier. There will be a series of important events the Warriors must capitalize on to get back to championship contention, including a potential extended mini-camp, the 2020 NBA Draft and free agency.

The draft will be held on Oct. 15, though Golden State will learn where exactly its first-round selection falls when the 2020 NBA Draft Lottery is held in late August. Three days after the draft, free agency will begin.

The Warriors theoretically have the ability to add multiple standout performers this offseason, but their best avenues to do so likely will be through the draft and trades. When it comes to free agency, they'll be financially limited. 

Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins will count for approximately $130 million against the salary cap next season. Though the cap was once projected to be around $115 million, it's expected to be significantly reduced as a result of the lost revenue due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. So, Golden State is all but certain to be a tax-paying team.

As such, the Warriors will have the tax-payer mid-level exception -- worth approximately $6 million -- at their disposal. Typically, that wouldn't be enough to attract a high-quality free agent, but the unusual circumstances of the offseason could result in some surprising developments. There are very few teams with ample cap space, meaning many free agents likely will have to sign for less money than they would have, say, a year ago.

Since Joe Lacob and Peter bought the team in 2012, the Warriors have never been shy about pursuing big names. Bleacher Report's Dan Favale has identified ambitious free-agent targets for all 30 NBA teams, and his recommendation for the Warriors -- Raptors center Marc Gasol -- would continue that pattern.

"Marc Gasol is a when-in-Rome target for the Golden State Warriors," Favale wrote. "They're better off investing in their wing rotation, but if they can get him for the mini mid-level exception, why not? Their center rotation has room."

With the Warriors preferring to limit Green's center minutes, Kevon Looney's health concerns and Marquese Chriss still being somewhat unestablished, Favale argues Gasol would be an ideal option to pair with Golden State's incumbent big men. He is far larger than each of them, an above-average two-way player and would add even more championship experience to the squad. At the time the current season was paused, Gasol was averaging 7.6 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game for the Raptors on 41.9 percent shooting from the field and an impressive 40.2 percent shooting from 3-point range.

It isn't difficult to envision how he would fit into the Warriors' offense.

[RELATED: Report: Warriors haven't met with top prospect Edwards yet]

Signing him, however, likely will prove to be far more challenging. Gasol likely will be in high demand this offseason, given both his reputation and the free-agency landscape. While he might view the Warriors as contenders, there are several other teams who might qualify for that category who potentially offer him a better contract. That includes the Raptors, who he won a title with -- against Golden State -- just over one year ago.

That said, Gasol should be one of the Warriors' first calls as soon as free agency opens. As Favale wrote, "it never hurts to ask."

[RUNNIN' PLAYS PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]