The Warriors are two games into the DeMarcus Cousins experience, and life is good. They’re 2-0, both wins by double digits. And Cousins has been better than some of the skeptics anticipated.
The sample size is small, so these are only glimpses. Teasers. After a full year away from the game, Cousins’ first two games represent a fraction of what’s to come.
But when the Full Boogie arrives, sometime after the All-Star break, look out. The Warriors will be more imposing than they were three years ago, when they rolled to an NBA record 73 wins.
Cousins was plus-24 in a 19-point win over the Lakers and plus-21 in an 18-point victory over the Clippers. Moreover, the Warriors’ starting lineup – Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Cousins – is plus-35 in only 18 minutes together, with an absurd 131.0 offensive rating and a preposterous 45.5 defensive rating.
Cousins shot better in his Warriors debut, against the Clippers, but his rebounding was fiercer and his passes crisper against the Lakers. In 36 minutes, he has 22 points, 15 rebounds, eight assists, one steal, one block, two turnovers – and 10 fouls.
He also drew a charge in each game.
“That’s what I do,” Cousins said when I asked specifically about taking charges – a stat generally associated with selflessness.
“I was pleased with his effort; I was pleased with him playing 21 minutes,” coach Steve Kerr said, referring to the win over the Lakers. “He’s going to be an enormous help to this team. We’re so lucky to have him. And as he gets his rhythm and groove, he’s going to be fantastic.”
Cousins is diving into the action, banging his way through the paint and using as much physicality as allowed on defense. He’s running the court well for someone who, at 6-foot-11, 270 pounds, never had the grace or the gait of a gazelle.
“I’ve only known how to play one way by entire career,” Cousins said. “I’m not coming out trying to be reserved or timid or anything like that. I want to get back into the rhythm of things as fast as possible. I’m going to push my body to the limit as long as I’m out there. All that can do is help me with where I’m trying to go.
“So I’m not really trying to ease my way into anything. I’m trying to get back to where I want to be, and the player I want to be.”
Cousins says he’s focused to finding rhythm and increasing his minutes. The Warriors want the same thing. They’d like to see him get comfortable with playing 24 to 28 minutes before the Feb. 14 All-Star break.
As the Warriors make their third of four swings through the Eastern Conference, Cousins will face greater challenges. Against the Wizards on Thursday, he’ll face the young and active Thomas Bryant, before trying to keep up with Celtics big man Al Horford on Saturday and Indiana’s Myles Turner on Monday.
When Cousins makes his home debut as a Warrior, on Jan. 31, he’ll have to deal with gifted 76ers big man Joel Embiid.
Cousins believes he’s ready for whatever comes his way, even as he tries to find his timing, acclimates himself with his teammates and also with what he calls a “different” NBA because of rules changes designed to limit defensive aggression.
One thing Cousins says he’s not worried about is something many observers are concerned with: his surgically repaired Achilles’ tendon.
“There soreness when it comes to running, getting used to game speed; my legs are fatigued after that,” he said. “But as far as the Achilles, it’s nothing. It’s good. It’s strong. It’s probably more conditioned than any other part of my body right now.”
Remember the “Super Villains?” If this version of the Warriors stays healthy, it may force a change in the definition of the term.