Nine months ago, DeMarcus Cousins sat in the Warriors practice facility in downtown Oakland in search for a new start.
With a recently repaired left Achilles tendon, Cousins signed a one-year, $5.3 million contract with Golden State after a contract dispute with the Pelicans. His had the goal of gaining back his all-star form while playing on the postseason stage that eluded him his first eight years in the league.
After three months of rehab, Cousins seemed to be making true on both of those goals, as he showed signs of his pre-tear ability down the stretch of the regular season. Then, three minutes into his second career postseason game, Cousins tumbled reaching for a loose ball.
An MRI Tuesday morning revealed a torn left quad and the Warriors have ruled out Cousins indefinitely. With the news, Cousins finds himself in familiar territory while experiencing the potential shortfalls that come with the bold decision to bet on yourself.
"I know its frustrating for him," Warriors big man Kevon Looney said following Monday's 135-131 Game 2 first-round loss to the Clippers. "I've been through something like that, getting hurt, getting all the way back and then getting hurt again."
Cousins' journey to this point started more than a year ago when, as a member of the Pelicans, he tore his Achilles reaching for a loose ball in the waning moments of a midseason win over the Rockets. The injury sparked an intense rehab process, with Cousins hoping to both get back to form and find a decent payday in free agency.
Depending on who you ask, Cousins may or may not have had options heading into free agency last summer. Shortly after he signed with the Warriors, The New York Times reported that Cousins rebuffed a two-year, $40 million extension shortly after his injury -- a report Cousins denied.
"I’m gonna put it like this: Only me and Dell Demps know what was said on the phone that night," Cousins said during his introductory press conference. "We both know the truth. And I’ll leave it at that."
In any event, signing with the Warriors was the ultimate sign that Cousins was betting on himself. History suggests the practice is a mixed bag. Four years ago, then-Bulls guard Jimmy Butler -- after turning down a $40 million extension prior to the 2014-15 season -- signed a five-year deal worth $95 million. Two years later, then-Mavericks big man Nerlens Noel turned down a reported four-year, $70 million offer from the team, eventually signing a one-year $4.1 million deal.
Since his January return, Cousins seemed to be following the path of Butler. Over his last 19 regular season games, he averaged 17.6 points and 9.1 rebounds on 50 percent from the field - including a 28 point, 13 rebound performance against the Denver Nuggets, helping Golden State secure the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.
Minutes into Cousins' introduction to the Bay Area media, Warriors general manager Bob Myers looked to Cousins with a declaration.
"You deserve to play playoff basketball," Myers said. "I'm so excited to see you play in the playoffs I can't wait to see you in the playoffs."
But now, Cousins' postseason future and beyond is as uncertain as it was when he first donned a Warriors' uniform.