With Durant, other Warriors out, Golden State is suddenly in a bind

With Durant, other Warriors out, Golden State is suddenly in a bind

OAKLAND -- There was legitimate concern during the regular season that the day could come when the Warriors would pay a price for having a roster extra deep in big men and extra light elsewhere.

That day arrived Wednesday as the Warriors prepared for Game 2 of their first-round series against Portland.

Starting forward Kevin Durant was ruled out, as was Matt Barnes, the swing forward signed when Durant was injured four months into the regular season. Also sitting is Shaun Livingston, a backup point guard with the physical radius of a forward.

It’s not that the Warriors can’t survive this. But the existing challenges now loom larger. Suddenly, a team that built an elite defense mostly on the arms and chemistry of similar-size players switching off picks is thin on required parts.

“It changes everything, really,” coach Steve Kerr said in his pregame news conference.

Of the 11 Warriors available, three are strictly centers and three more are power forwards who spend considerable time at center.

That leaves five players to man both guard spots and small forward: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Ian Clark, Andre Iguodala and rookie Pat McCaw.

“We’re pretty thin,” Kerr conceded. “And with KD out those six weeks, we basically had a full roster, for the most part. We picked up Matt Barnes and once we got settled, we played pretty well. But we had a lot of depth to rely on. Tonight we’ll be pretty thin. So we’ll have to figure out a way.”

You may recall the Warriors reached agreement with veteran point guard Jose Calderon two days before Durant went down on Feb. 28. Durant’s injury forced an adjustment, with the team honoring its commitment to Calderon and then immediately releasing him to sign Barnes.

With Durant, Livingston and Barnes all sitting for Game 2, the defense is certain to be compromised. They Warriors may play big more often than usual.

“We talked about it a lot the last couple days,” Kerr said. “It complicates things. But it’s just the reality of the NBA. You just adapt and, hopefully, come up with a good plan. And the players go out there and compete and play well.”

Kerr indicated that this will be a short-term problem, saying that it’s possible Durant, Livingston and Barnes could all be ready to play Game 3 Saturday at Portland.

“I think everybody is healing, and on the right path,” Kerr said. “But none of them was ready to play tonight. We still have lots of good players. We’re lucky. We’ve got a lot of talent and we’ve won plenty of games the last couple years with guys down, and that’s the plan tonight.”

The Warriors, to a man, expressed confidence that the available players can provide enough to give them a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. Maybe they can.

But they’ll have to do it while crossing their fingers and hoping the five “smalls” can get them to at least Game 3.


DeMarcus Cousins’ debut means Warriors must answer these 10 questions

DeMarcus Cousins’ debut means Warriors must answer these 10 questions

OAKLAND — The months of waiting dissolved into weeks, and then to a matter of days. And now it’s down to the final hours.

The Warriors will unveil their newest shiny toy Friday. DeMarcus Cousins, after nearly a year of physical therapy, will put on jersey No. 0 and walk onto the court with his new teammates for the very first time.

The addition of Cousins gives the Warriors five legitimate All-Stars, one at each position, every one of them with multiple skills. With Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson at guard, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green at forward and Cousins at center, it’s about as perfect a quintet as can be assembled in today’s NBA.

With Cousins entering at a time when the Warriors appear to be hitting their stride, curiosity and intrigue are extremely high. How effective can Cousins be coming off such a serious injury? How good can this team be?

Here, we try to answer some of the pertinent questions relating to Cousins being activated by the back-to-back defending NBA champions.

Does medical clearance mean he’s 100 percent?

No. Cousins feels good. He has passed all required tests. His ruptured left Achilles tendon has healed. But his rehab continues, only now during live activity.

Being cleared to play doesn’t mean he’s ready to put up 25 and 15 against the Clippers on Friday. It just means he’s able to play.

What is a reasonable expectation for the next few games?

As with anyone who has been away for nearly a year, there will be times when Cousins looks good and plenty of moments when he does not. He will be challenged -- particularly on defense -- and there will be some failure.

It shouldn’t take long for his shot to line up, or his passes to make life easier on his teammates. It will be weeks before he finds rhythm, months before he’s fully in tune with his body and his team.

What kind of production can be expected in the first few games?

Cousins says he understands he won’t get as many shots as he did in Sacramento or New Orleans. He also says he’s cool with it, that he knew that when he signed with the Warriors.

He will grab rebounds. He might not block many shots. He will have room to work on the offensive end, though, so don’t be surprised if he scores close to a point per minute and grabs a rebound every two or three minutes.

[RELATED: Pelicans know firsthand what Boogie will mean to Warriors]

How many minutes will he play?

Gleaning information from several team sources, the initial plan is for Cousins to start games but be restricted to 12 to 16 minutes. He’s not likely to play more than five consecutive minutes. It’s conceivable those minutes could be spread over three or four quarters.

As his conditioning improves, his minutes will rise. He’s not likely to play more than about 25 minutes per game.

How is his attitude?

Cousins has been having a good time. He has been engaged, enjoying his teammates and serving as an eager tutor, passing along tricks of the trade to youngsters Damian Jones, Kevon Looney and Jordan Bell. Jokes are flying both ways.

Still to be determined is how Cousins conducts himself in the heat of competition. There is no reason to anticipate friction, but there will be technical fouls, because Boogie is going to do Boogie.

Will he be able to get back on defense?

Sometimes, yes. There were times during intrasquad scrimmages when, according to witnesses, he did not. At the urging of teammates and coaches, he got better at it.

There will be times, particularly in the first few games, when he won’t or can’t get back. And when that happens, he will be subbed out. He knows it. Failing to get back on defense is a quick ticket to the bench.

[RELATED: Boogie considers Warriors "the most hated team in sports"]

Will he make the game easier for his new teammates?

Yes. That will be apparent early and become more so as he acclimates to his surroundings. The last pure center on the Warriors’ roster with such an offensive arsenal? Wilt Chamberlain.

Cousins is a threat in the paint or the perimeter. If teams double-team him, he’ll burn them by zipping passes to the team’s buffet of shooters.

Which teammate most benefits from Cousins’ presence?

That’s a tie between Draymond Green and Klay Thompson.

Green stands to benefit because he won’t have to battle opposing behemoths nearly as much. Thompson, with his constant off-the-ball movement, will have one more passer looking for him.

What about Cousins might pleasantly surprise Warriors fans?

Best guess here is his passing ability. It’s well above average, and the aspect that will fit in most seamlessly with his teammates, who are willing and creative passers.

Cousins’ former coach in New Orleans, Alvin Gentry, compares him to Denver Nuggets big man Nikola Jokic, who is considered top passing big in the league. Four days before he was injured last January, Cousins posted a 44-point, 20-rebound, 10-assist triple-double.

That’s not happening soon, but don’t be surprised if he has games with half those totals.

What might disappoint Warriors fans?

That would be his debut and his vertical leap. Cousins never was a high flyer, and the injury surely will rob him of a few inches. He might get them back, eventually.

The Warriors, however, are tempering expectations because it’s prudent and realistic. Cousins might not wow anybody for weeks. There is every reason to believe his debut game will have some ugly moments.

DeMarcus Cousins explains his mindset in return to NBA, Warriors debut

DeMarcus Cousins explains his mindset in return to NBA, Warriors debut

DeMarcus Cousins isn’t concerned about what others might think about him. Yes, he’s stubborn, he admits, and he’ll be even more so when he returns to the court Friday night with the Warriors.

“Absolutely. Absolutely,” Cousins told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols in a sit-down interview this week.

The six-time All-Star center’s recovery from his Achilles injury has taken a year, and when he steps on the court at Staples Center against the Clippers, the Warriors hope he’ll solve their riddle in the middle. Whether or not he can perform at the expected level depends on how his Achilles holds up, so Cousins sought counsel from Basketball Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins, who suffered a similar injury during his storied career.

“He just basically tells me to attack it,” Cousins said. “Once you realize you are healed, like, don't think about it. Just go forward. …

“One thing that Dominique also spoke on is -- they don't know your heart, and they don't know your drive. So you know, the people that do know me, they know I can be very stubborn. I don't like to be proved wrong.”

[RELATED: Why Boogie believes Warriors are most hated team in sports]

Cousins, however, hopes to prove people wrong, even if he can’t change their minds about who he is, with his history of outburst and technical fouls mixed with prolific scoring and routine double-doubles.

"I can't live worrying about what the next man thinks,” Cousins said. “I know who I am as a person. And the people that matter around me know who I am. So, it is what it is.”

Let the fun begin …