LOS ANGELES – For the first time in precisely 51 weeks, DeMarcus Cousins slid out of bed Friday morning knowing he would spend the day preparing for what he was born to do.
He would spend the evening actually doing it.
In the rebirth of his NBA career, man known by many as “Boogie” will be wearing a Warriors jersey and he will walk onto the court for tipoff against the Los Angeles Clippers.
“Honestly, I’m happy to be on the floor,” Cousins told NBC Sports Bay Area after the team’s morning shootaround at Staples Center. “I’m not really looking for any expectations. I’m not coming out here expecting to score 50 or whatever the case may be. I know that’s what the world expects. I know that’s what they’re looking for. I know that’s how most people will measure my success as of right now.
“But this is the last step of my rehab process, getting acclimated with the team, getting acclimated with the flow of the game, getting back into game shape. I don’t want people to think I’m just a finished product, because I’m not.”
As a member of the New Orleans Pelicans last season, Cousins’ banner year was cut short last Jan. 26, when he sustained ruptured left Achilles’ tendon. He underwent surgery the following week and has devoted the last 11 months to recovery and rehabilitation.
Cousins was roughly halfway into that process when it became clear that, upon becoming a free agent last July, he would not be returning to the Pelicans. Future suddenly cloudy, he brooded for a while before determining his next move.
He decided to reach out to the Warriors. Give it a try. See if they might be interested.
Once general manager Bob Myers got over the shock of being contacted by a four-time All-Star center willing accept a $5.3 million salary – less than one-third of the $18 million he made last season – he consulted with the team’s incumbent stars and received unanimous approval.
Cousins signed the one-year pact last July 6. He’s betting on himself, that he would overcome the injury and be a star at a discount. The Warriors see it as a low-risk gamble.
He has been embraced by his new teammates, and come to appreciate and enjoy them. Though he was unable to play the first three months of the season, Cousins was able absorb the energy and culture of a team that has reached the NBA Finals four consecutive years, winning three championships.
“Everybody comes in, they do their job and they work, from the first guy to the last,” he said. “That’s a rare thing for an entire team. Sometimes you have a certain group of guys that work, and then the others are the first ones out of the gym. One thing about this team is every single guy works. That in itself is . . . that’s what stands out.
“But just the camaraderie, the way everybody supports each other, the chemistry, it’s through the roof. Being a part of something like that, it’s easy to maneuver through a long season.”
Cousins, 28, spent his first seven seasons proving he has as much skill as any big man in the NBA. He scores, rebounds and passes with equal aplomb. The most detrimental rap against him has been that his emotions sometimes rage out of control, at times making him a liability.
That, along with uncertainty about recovering from such a severe injury, would explain why some franchises might be skittish about adding him.
The Warriors opened their arms. They believe in their culture. They believe in Boogie, who expects, in time, to prove worthy of their investment.
“I’m glad to be a part of this team,” Cousins said. “It’s been a long journey for me. Be patient with me. I’m putting in the work every single day to get back to (being) the player I was, or better. Just be patient.”