OAKLAND -- DeMarcus Cousins is trying to adjust to accepting being less than he always was, and there are times, like Saturday, when it is evident he detests the limitations within a process sure to be long and challenging.
“It’s frustrating as hell,” Cousins said Saturday after a lethargic Warriors effort in a 118-112 loss to the Rockets.
“It’s tough,” he added. “I’m in a gray area, trying to get back to being myself and also just knowing guys are coming at me. Nobody in this league is going to feel sorry for me and I know that.”
Using its usual pick-and-roll heavy offense, Houston went after Cousins’ defense and found some success. Put simply, there were numerous occasions when the center wasn’t able to move his 6-foot-11, 270-pound body quickly enough.
“We were thinking about it,” Rockets center Clint Capela said. “Wherever we see a weakness, we try to go at it. We made that the right decision.”
Capela is unique in that he is a fabulous athlete, long enough and strong enough (at 6-10, 245) to play center but also is perhaps the quickest big man in the league. He’s perfect for the role of giving Cousins fits.
“Houston, and the way they play, obviously there is a lot of talk around the matchup . . . but we understand who we are and what we’re working toward,” Stephen Curry said. “DeMarcus, especially, is grinding and getting his body to where he wants it to be. He’s finding his timing and rhythm.”
But Cousins’ struggles have not been limited to this game, or one or two others. He’s discovering the hard way that he can’t return to his previous All-Star level simply because he so badly wants to.
The result is too many fouls, too many missed shots in the paint and the Warriors looking out of sync on offense and defense. Cousins is learning both while simultaneously trying to get accustomed to his new impediments, and the Warriors pay a price. Their defense improves appreciably when he’s on the bench.
“Guys are attacking me in the pick-and-roll and it’s obvious,” said Cousins, who was minus-17 in 27 minutes against Houston. “I’ve just got to be ready for it, be prepared for it and stay out of (expletive) foul trouble. Jesus Christ.”
Thirteen games into his comeback, Cousins has fouled out once (in 15 minutes), picked up five fouls twice, four on four occasions and three five times. He’s averaging one foul every 6.1 minutes.
Which, consequently, means that familiar and monumentally pained Boogie expression of displeasure has become a frequent sight. He’s angry with the officiating, but perhaps more with himself.
“It’s confidence,” Cousins said. “It’s trusting myself in those (defensive) situations, trusting myself to shoot the ball, all of that. The confidence isn’t there, obviously.
“But I’m going to keep working at it and eventually it will come along.”
Rick Celebrini, the team’s director of sports medicine, warned Cousins upon meeting him last summer that this process was going to try his soul because it would be filled with more despair than delight.
“Rick has preached this to me from the time I set foot here,” Cousins said. “There’s going to be good days and there will be a lot of bad days. So, obviously, I’m in the bad days right now.
“But with every storm, there is sunshine at the end.”
The Warriors are in no rush, as long as they are seeing progress. There has been some, most notably in rebounding. Cousins has posted double-digit totals in three consecutive games, snagging a season-high 14 on Saturday.
Cousins also is slowly regaining agility. “Slow” is the part he finds unnerving.
“My baseline spin move is one of my favorite moves,” he said. “I remember trying to do it earlier in the season and I couldn’t even get past the guy. I was able to do it tonight and actually get past the guy but not be able to finish the way I wanted to.
“Some things, they’re coming back to me slowly. They’re happening for me. It’s just a matter of time.”
The Warriors say they can wait. They have seven weeks and 23 games remaining before the playoffs begin. That’s plenty of time for Cousins to be more effective, as long as he can handle being less effective at times along the way.