OAKLAND – If the Warriors are treating the return of DeMarcus Cousins with the kind of extra care reserved for a valuable but not yet necessary asset, it is because they are and he is.
Coach Steve Kerr emphasized as much on Monday, hours after Cousins worked out with the G-League Warriors in Santa Cruz, when he conceded he had not yet talked with Cousins or Santa Cruz coach Aaron Miles.
“I assume it all went well,” Kerr said. “If it hadn’t, I would have heard by now.”
The plan, Kerr said, is to take it “day-to-day.” No rush whatsoever.
Which is as it should be, if not week-to-week. The Warriors didn’t need Cousins for Game 27 last Friday in Milwaukee and they don’t need him for Game 28 on Monday against the Timberwolves. They won’t need him for Game 29 or 30 or 31 or 32.
Truthfully, the Warriors’ resume indicates they may not need Cousins at all.
Such casual conditions are why Cousins knows he can go to Santa Cruz and work up a copious sweat with the G-League Warriors. Indeed, it’s why he volunteered to go.
“It was my idea,” Cousins told reporters after his first practice in Santa Cruz. “I wanted to come down. Before I want to step foot on the floor, I wanted to get in some type of basketball rhythm.”
“That’s something me and trainers kind of butted heads about. They have their idea of getting ready for a game, and I have mine. The last thing I wanted to do was go from doing drill work and 2-on-2 or 3-on-3, straight to an NBA game. I would be kind of shooting myself in the foot with that.”
For Cousins, you see, returning to the NBA is as much about pride as contractual obligation. He was an All-Star when he ruptured his left Achilles’ tendon in January and he wants to be as close as possible to that level once he’s back in the lineup.
This is in total accordance with the Warriors, who express not the slightest hint iota of a whisper or a rumor about anything remotely resembling urgency.
“I just want to be in the best shape possible and the best rhythm possible before I actually step on the floor for an NBA game,” Cousins said.
Dr. Rick Celebrini, the new director of sports medicine and performance for the Warriors, is the man through whom Cousins has been working. And it will be Celebrini who decides when the big man is physical ready for the demands of an NBA game.
“It’s coming from Rick Celebrini rather than from our doctors,” Kerr said of Cousins’ ongoing rehab. “DeMarcus feels pretty good and I think the Achilles is healing nicely, but it’s an injury that is unique in that your movement is really affected. Running and moving, when you are dealing with a sprained ankle or knee strain is one thing, but with an Achilles, from what I understand, and I have spoken with Jonas (Jerebko) about as well, it’s just different. You kind of have to get your bearings and that takes some time.”
Cousins went through a rigorous midday workout with the G-Leaguers and later came to Oracle Arena, before the Warriors-Timberwolves game, to do individual shooting drills under the supervision of assistant coach Chris DeMarco.
“I see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Cousins said. “I’m extremely excited to get back on the floor.”
There is no plan for him to play in a G-League game, and it’s not likely that he will.
That’s not why the Warriors signed him. They didn’t sign him to play in the NBA in December, either, though it can’t be ruled out. They don’t need him now.
But, boy, will Cousins come in handy for what’s anticipated in April, May and June.
Just as Kevin Durant made a great team appreciably greater, Cousins can make a versatile team far more versatile than it has been at any time during the most impressive run in franchise history.