OAKLAND – After spending this season existing between tedium and passion, the Warriors are about to get someone who can alter that routine.
Here comes DeMarcus Cousins, and he doesn’t do tedium on basketball court.
Cousins is projected make his Warriors debut sometime next week. The 6-foot-11, 270-pound center has targeted the Jan. 18 game against the Clippers in Los Angeles. Coach Steve Kerr was less specific Tuesday night but noted that possibility.
“It will happen around that time,” Kerr said after a 122-95 win over the New York Knicks. “It’s not as simple as ‘that’s the game.’ It’s somewhere in that neighborhood.”
Kerr mentioned the possibility of Cousins playing as soon as Jan. 16, when the New Orleans Pelicans – Cousins’ former team – visit Oracle Arena.
In either case, Cousins is coming, and soon. He will be the new toy, something to engage and captivate the Warriors and maybe light the spark that has been missing all too often in the first half of the season.
“It’s exciting,” said Klay Thompson, whose 43-point outburst destroyed the Knicks. “I know our fan base is excited, the NBA is excited.”
If Thompson is excited, his teammates are twice that. They’ve seen his workouts. They’ve scrimmaged with him. They know the wealth of talent he possesses. They also know of the dynamic energy that follows Cousins, who can be a walking, talking lightning bolt.
This is a team, with a 27-14 record, that can use some of that.
“It’s obviously a nice morale boost, with that on the horizon, DeMarcus coming back,” Stephen Curry said.
“We understand there’s going to be an adjustment – for everybody. And, hopefully, it will give us another type of challenge in terms of really being disciplined and diligent on how we perform as a team with DeMarcus in the rotation and take us to new heights.”
Defense has been the biggest factor in the Warriors relative underperformance. They’ve played in intermittently, sometimes not at all and sometimes as if they actually mean it.
Cousins is not known as an elite defender and, therefore, won’t help much on that end. But he brings an emotional energy that can shoot through his teammates, and that might push them to defend better.
“His first couple games, who knows how it will go?” Curry wondered. “But with the collective IQ we have in our locker room and understanding the unselfishness around what we do, we’ll be able to figure it out quickly.
“But it’s going to be an adjustment for sure.”
The adjustment will work both ways. The Warriors will have to become familiar with Cousins and he’ll have to do the same with them.
But that’s the kind thing this team generally thrives on. Test the Warriors, and they usually respond impressively. It’s the humdrum of the 82-game regular season, which they regard as the rehearsal for the postseason, which opens the door to collective ennui.
“I can’t wait to integrate him into our team,” Thompson said. “He adds a whole new dimension, especially on the block. He’s such a handful down there, and with his ability to play-make. So excited to get DeMarcus back.”
Cousins has been working with Rick Celebrini, the team’s director of sports medicine and performance, for four months now. The rehab process hasn’t always gone smoothly, but there have been no setbacks. Cousins has been a part of practices for the 10 days.
“The last two scrimmages that he’s had, it’s looked to us and felt to him that he has broken through a barrier,” Kerr said. “And we were waiting for that barrier. Now that he is through that barrier, and assuming everything goes well . . . that’s sort of the idea, to get him in sometime that week.”
“That week” is the six-day window between Jan. 16-21. Cousins is eager to play. He has been eager for a couple weeks. The team needs a big man, and he fills that role as well as anyone in the league.
The team needs a jolt of zeal. Cousins will bring that simply by suiting up.