OAKLAND -- The questions started coming minutes after DeMarcus Cousins limped into the Warriors' locker room Monday night during the first quarter of Golden State's 135-131 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 2 of their first-round NBA playoff series.
Among the topics were questions about his injury, about whether the 6-foot-11, 270-pound center could return during the playoffs, about his professional future and his future with the Warriors.
We’ll try to answer them as best we can with what we know:
Q: What exactly is Cousins’ injury?
An MRI on Tuesday revealed a torn muscle of the left quadriceps (the area inches above the knee), the Warriors announced Tuesday afternoon. It will not require surgery. Cousins is out “indefinitely” and will begin rehabilitation immediately.
Q: Is it possible that Cousins can return during the playoffs (assuming the Warriors advance to at least the Western Conference finals)
Highly unlikely. This injury typically requires a period of immobilization, followed by weeks of rehab. Game 7 of the NBA Finals, if necessary, will be played no later than June 16.
Q: With Cousins out, who gets the minutes at center for the Warriors?
It’s back to center-by-circumstance, as it was in the first two seasons under coach Steve Kerr. Depending on the opponent or their center, Andrew Bogut will get some starts, Kevon Looney could get starts, as might Jordan Bell. All three are in play. Damian Jones, who started the first six weeks before sustaining a torn left pectoral muscle, has progressed to playing 3-on-3, but the Warriors have not established a timeline for his return.
But the Warriors’ best lineup was one without Cousins. It’s the Hamptons 5 group, with Draymond Green at center, Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala at forwards, and Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson at guards. This is Kerr’s go-to lineup for 10 to 12 minutes per game, and that won’t change.
Q: Is this related to the ruptured left Achilles’ tendon Cousins sustained in January 2018 that required surgery?
Probably. When one part of an elite athlete’s leg is weakened, it’s common for other parts to compensate. Though there are therapies designed to minimize that, it’s still likely the amount of stress placed on the quad of a 270-pound basketball player compromises that area.
Q: Is there a chance Cousins can return to the Warriors next season?
Chances are greater now than they were before this injury. Cousins signed a one-year contract last summer for the taxpayer midlevel (roughly $5.34 million) with a goal of playing well enough to command a multiyear deal worth at least $20 million, putting him well beyond the financial range of the Warriors, who because of the collective bargaining agreement could offer just a 20 percent raise, or about $6.4 million.
This injury, however, significantly lowers the market rate for Cousins. No team is likely to step forward with a lucrative multiyear deal, so he could tumble back into the Warriors' budget.
There would have to be mutual interest, and there is no certainty of that.
Q: Does this injury threaten Cousins’ career?
Potentially. The grueling 10-month rehab required after Achilles tendon surgery nearly broke him. He acknowledged there were a lot of “dark” moments. After another serious setback, there is no knowing how Cousins will respond. He will need significant physical therapy, as well as knowledgeable emotional support.