Warriors' DeMarcus Cousins could return in time for start of NBA Finals

Warriors' DeMarcus Cousins could return in time for start of NBA Finals

OAKLAND -- In a surprising twist, injured Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins practiced Thursday afternoon for the first time since tearing his left quad. 

With Cousins one step closer to game action, Golden State could be getting reinforcements at just the right time. 

“I feel good. A lot better than I was,” Cousins said Thursday afternoon. “I’m able to get up and down the court more. I’m able to play a little competition basketball."

Minutes before Cousins spoke to the media for the first time in more than a month, the Warriors announced he, along with Kevin Durant, will miss the onset of the NBA Finals next week, but expressed hope both could play sometime during the series

Following Thursday's practice, Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Cousins' availability for Game 1 of the Finals on May 30 will depend on his conditioning level. Additionally, Kerr wouldn't commit to starting the big man when ready, saying the decision will depend on matchups. 

Cousins, who tore his quad diving for a loose ball in Game 2 of a first-round series with the Clippers, signed a one-year, $5.2 million deal with the Warriors in July in an effort to boost his value after the perennial All-Star tore his Achilles last season. After averaging 16.3 points, 8.2 rebounds and 3.6 assists in 30 regular-season games this year, Cousins seemed primed for a summer payday before the quad injury occurred. Shortly after suffering the injury, Cousins vowed to return in the playoffs. 

“Initially, I thought it was worse than what it was,” Cousins said. “There was obviously a panic, but once the doctors came out and I realized what it was, I gathered myself from a couple of days of frustration, anger, sadness and all of the above. I told myself to get back to work and do it all over again. That’s what I did, and that’s what I’ll continue to do.”

“I feel like that’s what adversity does: It always builds you up and makes you stronger for the next bump,” he added. “That was one of my darkest moments, dealing with the Achilles. I feel like I was in a stronger mental capacity when it came to dealing with this one. Not to say that it’s been easy, but it’s a more comfortable situation.”

Over the last month, Cousins has been seen working on his lateral movement and taking light jump shots after practice. As for his pending return, Cousins believes that he can be a vital piece for a team in need of reinforcements. 

[RELATED: How KD's early Finals absence affects Warriors' matchups]

“I think people know what I can do,” he said. “It’s just about me being healthy. Of course, I want to be out there to help my team and to play the game that I love to play. I also just want to be healthy. This is an opportunity to do that.”

Third preseason game provides learning experience for Warriors Jordan Poole

USA Today

Third preseason game provides learning experience for Warriors Jordan Poole

Four months ago, the Warriors drafted Poole in part for his offensive confidence.

During the onset of the preseason, Poole has rewarded those hopes, making 48 percent of his shots through his first two games. 

However, in Monday's 104-98 loss to the Lakers, he momentarily regressed, making just 3-of-14 from the field, offering an early lesson for the rookie: Find other ways to make an impact when your shot isn't falling. 

"Jordan is young and coming off two really good games," Warriors coach Steve Kerr late Monday evening. "So this is inevitable, this is how it goes."

In his third career outing, he missed his first six shots, committing five turnovers. Worse, he missed defensive assignments, low lighted when he tripped over the foot of Lakers guard Zach Norvell Jr, falling as the guard made a shot, much to the delight of the Lakers bench. 

Throughout his basketball life, Poole has displayed unwavering confidence in his shot. A year ago, he made a buzzer beater to send the Michigan Wolverines to the 2018 Sweet 16. But through his first two games in Golden State, the staff is hoping to make Poole more than a scorer.

"I think tonight is a really good tape to show Jordan because he struggled with some of the physicality," Kerr said. "And I think some of the decision making defensively. He was slow to react on rotations." 

For his part, Poole has bought into Golden State's plan. Last week against the Timberwolves, Against the Timberwolves, he was active. Four minutes into the second quarter, he barked out orders to D'Angelo Russell to switch onto his man before stripping forward Naz Reid. A minute later, guarding Jaylen Nowell, he shuffled his feet as the guard used a spin move and blocked his shot out of bounds. 

Poole's effort on the defensive end comes has he's trying to undo a longstanding defensive narrative. While he led the Wolverines in scoring last season, his defensive attention was maligned, leading to a reputation he's trying to shake. 

"A narrative gets put out and that's kind of what you get labeled as," Poole told NBC Sports last week. "But you can always work on defense and everybody. I'm just gonna to continue work on it day in and day out." 

"I feel like I know I can score the ball and I'm really good on offense and be able to lock up on the perimeter," he added. "I feel like that will take me to the next level."

As Monday's game drew to a close, Poole began to showed why Golden State remains intrigued in his game. Two minutes into the third quarter --- despite his poor start -- calmly drained a 3-pointer off an assist from Stephen Curry. A minute later, he took another pass from Curry and made a mid-range jumper to bring Golden State within six points. With three minutes left in the game, he made another 3-pointer to cut the Lakers lead to three, displaying the confidence his teammates have encouraged throughout training camp. 

"When you have [D'Angelo Russell] and Steph [Curry] and Draymond [Green], Klay [Thompson], Jacob [Evans III], everybody telling you to shoot the ball, that you're here because you can score. Shoot," Poole said following the preseason opener Oct. 5. "I think it's simple. Obviously, take smart ones, but if you're open, don't hesitate." 

Still, with Poole's evolution, the coaching staff hopes he can continue to grow an all-around game. 

"Typical rookie stuff," Kerr said. "And we'll show him but really it's all good stuff and it'll help him get better."

Steph Curry's leadership on display in Warriors' third preseason game

Steph Curry's leadership on display in Warriors' third preseason game

Editor's note: Grant Liffmann (@grantliffmann) is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders, which airs on NBC Sports Bay Area 90 minutes before each home game and 60 minutes after every game. Each week, Grant will drop his Outsider Observation on the state of the Dubs.

It was primarily a starless night in Los Angeles, as Lakers stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis and Warriors players Draymond Green and D'Angelo Russell rode the bench. Golden State, led by Steph Curry and a cast of rookies and young players, fell to the Lakers 104-98 in a rather sloppy performance.

Here are some observations from the game:

Steph the leader

Curry has not always been a very vocal leader, but he has been one to lead by example. In the third preseason game last night, he clearly made a point to play some passionate defense. For stars like Curry, traditionally giving maximum effort in the preseason seems unnecessary and sometimes counter-intuitive. But last night, Curry either made the conscious decision to work on his defensive game, or show this young Warriors team how important it is to emphasize defensive effort.

Curry's physical build and offensive greatness have made many over the years take his defense for granted, but at his best -- which includes not reaching and collecting fouls) -- Curry is a stout defender that can hold his own. Last night, he finished the game with two steals and two blocks in just 21 minutes of action.

If the Warriors are going to make a run for the playoffs this year, it'll be important that the team reflects that same defensive mindset.

Lee stands out

Damion Lee did not make a three-pointer in four attempts, which in most cases would mean that he had an ineffective game. However, Lee impressed in many other facets, including finishing 7-for-7 from inside the arc, drawing fouls, collecting nine rebounds and three steals, and finishing the game with a team-high 18 points in just 23 minutes.

If Lee plans to get significant playing time, and perhaps become a permanent fixture on the roster, he will have to continue to show the coaching staff and front office that he can play an all-around game like last night. At the minimum, Lee normally can be a trusted three-point shooter who plays with a high-motor. But if he can keep excelling in other ways, he assuredly will find himself in the Warriors rotation.

Up-and-down McKinnie

Alfonzo McKinnie started the game off in a strong fashion doing what he does best, playing with high-energy and crashing the glass. He even hit a three-pointer on his first attempt shortly after checking into the game in the first quarter. Unfortunately for Zo, his play regressed as the game went along.

Regardless, McKinnie gave a brief reminder of what he can bring to the team that is so desperate for solid small forward play. If the front office plans on adding Marquese Chriss to the roster, they would have to get creative in order to keep McKinnie around.

But if Zo steps up and plays like he did at the start of last night's game, he is going to make it an even tougher decision than it already is. 

Chriss stays hot

Speaking of Marquese Chriss, the former lottery pick yet again played an effective game from the starting center spot. Chriss has made a concerted effort to show he can play down-low and not just drift out to the perimeter, and it has been paying off. He battled around the hoop, collecting 11 rebounds, drawing fouls and converting all six of his free throw attempts.

To the surprise of many, he has shown a willingness to pass with great efficiency, recording four assists in all three preseason games. At this juncture, there is an overwhelming assumption that Chriss will on the opening night roster, with two preseason games left to solidify his case.

[RELATED: Lakers giving Warriors repeated reminders of size they lack]

Shooting woes

The Warriors shot just 25 percent on 36 attempts from deep last night on a rough shooting night for the team. The Warriors, like all other teams, have become accustomed to random poor shooting performances. Unfortunately, unlike past seasons where the team could still win the game on the defensive end, an off-night offensively might spell doom for them this season.

The margin for error has shrunk considerably this season without Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala and Klay Thompson (for most of the year). With a team as young and inexperienced as the Dubs, there inevitably will be some inconsistency from many of their players, like the 3-for-14 shooting game from Jordan Poole last night.

The story of the season will be whether or not the coaching staff can concoct a respectable defense out of the pieces they have on the roster. If not, the Warriors will have to put up some offensive explosions on a nightly basis.