Warriors need DeMarcus Cousins after topsy-turvy NBA Finals journey

Warriors need DeMarcus Cousins after topsy-turvy NBA Finals journey

TORONTO -- From odd man out to potential savior in the blink of an eye. 

After starting the previous three games of the NBA Finals, DeMarcus Cousins began Game 5 against the Toronto Raptors on Monday planted on the Warriors’ bench. It was a tough pill to swallow for a player who has waited his entire career for a moment like this. 

Warriors coach Steve Kerr played small ball, using Draymond Green as his starting center with superstar Kevin Durant back in the fold. When Kerr needed a sub in the post, he turned to Kevon Looney first. And then Andrew Bogut.

And then the unthinkable happened.

Fresh off a month-long absence, Durant went down holding his right lower leg in the early second quarter. It was a stunning turn of events that caught all of Scotiabank Arena off guard.

Andre Iguodala helped Durant off the court. Stephen Curry followed his friend to the locker room to share a word of encouragement. 

With the game on hold, Kerr assessed his situation and called on Cousins to fill the void. The 6-foot-11 center took the promotion in stride and instantly went to work.

“I thought DeMarcus was fantastic tonight,” Kerr said after the Warriors' 106-105 win. “He stayed ready. He didn't get the first call for that second-quarter run. We went to Bogut, and then with the injury, we knew we needed his scoring, and he stayed ready and played a brilliant game.”

Cousins plowed through a pair of Raptors for his first bucket. He did it again moments later, and then he buried a 3-pointer for seven points in his first minute of action. 

The six-time All-Star finished the half with nine points on 4-of-5 shooting, and he also grabbed five rebounds in just 6:18 of action. There was a power to his game that has been missing as he continues to recover from a torn quadriceps.

“So very happy for him, and he's been through an awful lot himself over the last year-plus with his own injuries,” Kerr added. “This was a great night for him individually, and very happy for him.”

Cousins had moments in the second half as well. Some were good, and some were not. 

He finished the evening with 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting and chipped in six rebounds, one block and one steal in 20 minutes of play. In the final two minutes of the fourth quarter, he was called for goaltending on both ends of the floor and questionably whistled for a moving screen.

When Cousins is healthy, you can take the good with the bad. Even though he isn't 100 percent, his presence in the lineup helped steady the Warriors in a crucial moment Monday. 

In a career filled with chaos, it was a manic week for Cousins. During The Finals, he has gone from medical miracle in Game 1 to starring in Game 2, and he followed that with extremely difficult stretches in Games 3 and 4. 

Now, he’s come full circle. Without his play in Game 5, the Warriors likely would be on a plane home watching the entire country of Canada celebrate the Raptors' first NBA championship. 

“Cuz was unbelievable tonight, for real, he’s one of our most valuable players,” Warriors veteran Shaun Livingston said. “What he did, coming in changing the pace of the game, giving us that punch, like, we’re dangerous when we play that way.”

The struggle to find a rhythm after missing six weeks has taken its toll on Cousins. He was in no mood to talk following the game, despite the win. His words to the media were cryptic, as they have been throughout much of his career.

“Just a lot of things that transpired over the past couple of days, and I just used it as motivation,” Cousins said following the win. “So, I’ll leave it at that.”

It was an emotional evening for the Warriors. On the brink of elimination, they needed all hands on deck. Cousins showed that he is getting closer to the player he has been in the past, but he’s at the mercy of his body at this point. 

[RELATED: KD's Achilles casts cloud over Warriors' present, future]

There is hope that Cousins will continue to get stronger. A two-day break between games is just what the doctor ordered.

There are no promises that he all start Game 6 on Thursday, or that he can give the same level of play. But Golden State will need the big man if it’s going to even the best-of-seven series in Oracle Arena's finale and force a winner-take-all Game 7.

NBA rumors: Warriors' Kevon Looney possible Rockets free-agent target

NBA rumors: Warriors' Kevon Looney possible Rockets free-agent target

Warriors big man Kevon Looney will become an unrestricted free agent on Sunday. And unlike last summer, Golden State will have to give the 23-year-old more than the minimum to re-sign him.

There will be a market for Looney, and the Houston Rockets are expected to be a suitor.

As Sam Amick of The Athletic wrote on Tuesday night:

As it stands, [the Rockets] have no cap room and are limited to the midlevel exception (annual salary starting at $5.7 million).

A source with knowledge of the Rockets’ plans said Danny Green, Jeremy Lamb, Al-Farouq Aminu, DeAndre Jordan, Brook Lopez and Kevon Looney are also possible targets.

The Dubs have Looney's full bird rights and can give him a max contract if they wanted. That obviously won't be happening, but the point is they aren't limited financially in terms of what they can offer like they were last summer.

In Golden State's memorable Game 6 win in Houston last month, Looney recorded 14 points, five rebounds, one assist, one steal and one block in 20 minutes.

The No. 30 overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft sustained a non-displaced first costal cartilage fracture on the right side of his chest during Game 2 of the Finals in Toronto. His expected recovery time is six to eight weeks, which means Looney should be at full strength when training camp opens up in late September.

You should expect the Warriors to make it a priority to re-sign him.

“Looney has become one of our foundational pieces," Golden State head coach Steve Kerr told reporters on May 22.

And now, they're going to have to show him the money.

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Kevin Durant all smiles roaming around New York after Achilles surgery


Kevin Durant all smiles roaming around New York after Achilles surgery

Kevin Durant isn't expected to play in any NBA games next season, but he's not letting that dampen his mood.

Nearly two weeks after having surgery to repair his right Achilles tendon, Durant is up and roaming around New York City with the assistance of a knee walker.

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Tony Durant, Kevin's brother, posted that image Tuesday evening of them walking around SoHo.

Immediately after the Golden State Warriors lost to the Toronto Raptors in the 2019 NBA Finals, Durant flew to New York City and had Dr. Martin O'Malley perform the Achilles surgery.

With the start of free agency just days away, rumors have started swirling about Durant's mindset as he approaches his big decision.

On Monday, Bleacher Report's Ric Bucher reported that Durant was "pissed" with the Warriors for their role in his injury. But a day later, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported that there is no such rift between Durant and the Warriors.

[RELATED: Two teams have backed off Durant]

Based on the new image, Durant appears to be in good spirits.

We'll find out in the next few days if Durant will bring that smile back to the Bay Area for the next five years, or if it will stay in New York City for the next four.