Warriors

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.”

NBA free agency 2019: 10 players Warriors could target to help next season

NBA free agency 2019: 10 players Warriors could target to help next season

NBA free agency is less than a week away, the Warriors find themselves under unique circumstances. 

Their top two free agent targets -- Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant -- will be rehabbing career-altering injuries that could keep them out all, not most of next season. 

If both re-sign, the Warriors will be well over the luxury tax, meaning they'll only have a tax payer's mid-level exception and veteran minimum deals to hand out when free agency starts June 30.

Despite their salary-cap situation, some intriguing free agents could be had in Golden State's price range. To get you ready for free agency, here's a list of potential options for the Warriors. 

CLICK TO SEE 10 FREE AGENTS THAT COULD HELP THE WARRIORS NEXT SEASON

NBA rumors: Nets exploring DeAndre Jordan signing to entice Kevin Durant

NBA rumors: Nets exploring DeAndre Jordan signing to entice Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant and DeAndre Jordan are good friends.

They won a gold medal together at the 2016 Olympics in Brazil, and partied in Greece afterwards:

So considering the fact that the Brooklyn Nets are all-in on trying to sign KD in free agency, this bit of information shouldn't be too surprising:

It is widely expected that Kyrie Irving is going to sign with the Nets, and he reportedly has been recruiting the two-time NBA Finals MVP for weeks.

Jordan -- who signed a one-year deal with the Mavericks last summer worth just under $23 million -- is also scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on June 30.

In late January, he was traded to New York in the deal that cleared up the necessary salary cap space for the Knicks to sign two stars to max contracts in free agency.

The soon-to-be-31-year-old averaged 10.9 points, 11.4 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.1 blocks in 19 games in New York.

Speaking of the Knicks:

[RELATEDWhy KD reportedly is 'really pissed off' at the Warriors]

Also, the Nets reportedly are the front-runners to sign KD and they are the odds-on favorites in the sportsbooks. 

Follow @DrewShiller on Twitter and Instagram