WASHINGTON (AP) — The rest of the NBA isn’t much of an obstacle for the Golden State Warriors right now.
But the two-time defending champions have just what they need to test themselves in the doldrums of an 82-game season.
Long before the Warriors can go for their third consecutive title and fourth in five years, they’re now in the process of integrating DeMarcus Cousins into the mix. Cousins missed almost a full calendar year after rupturing his left Achilles tendon while playing for New Orleans, and with the All-Star center finally healthy, Golden State gets to use this time to figure out how he fits in.
“He’s given us new life, new energy,” coach Steve Kerr said Wednesday. “It’s good timing with where we are in the schedule. The All-Star break is still about three weeks away. These are always difficult days in the NBA season. You’re kind of grinding through, a long way to go. His arrival corresponds pretty well with a time that’s normally tough to get through.”
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It doesn’t look tough for Golden State, which has matched a season-high with eight consecutive victories. Cousins has been a part of just two of those games so far as he builds back up his conditioning level, and that will continue to evolve.
As Cousins gets his workload back to normal, fellow All-Stars Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson and the rest of the Warriors are getting used to what he brings to the table.
So far, so good.
“It gives us a big jolt of energy just because he’s been working so hard to get back to this point,” Thompson said. “He adds a whole new dimension to our team, and I get really excited thinking about the possibilities.”
As Green pointed out, the Warriors are always thinking about winning a championship, and signing Cousins was another step toward that goal. Cousins signed a $5.34 million, one-year contract understanding he could miss half the season, but he can also be fresher for the stretch run and the playoffs.
Cousins, who played 15 and 21 minutes in his first two games, can ease his way back in because unlike December when the Warriors lost three of five, they’re on quite the tear as of late.
“It’s also kind of lessened the expectations for him, allowed him to properly get back into the flow of things,” Green said. “To come back at a time where we’re kind of rolling, it allows him to come back and get his legs under him, get his feel back for the game after a year off as opposed to kind of coming back and trying to be that piece to right the ship, which could make it a lot more challenging.”
The 28-year-old big man doesn’t have to be the piece, but rather another piece of the Warriors’ winning puzzle. Not only can he dominate inside and shoot from the outside, but Thompson said Cousins helped set him up a handful of 3-pointers when he tied an NBA record by making his first 10 attempts Monday night — a good sign so early in his time with Golden State.
“He can do everything,” Thompson said. “He can pass out of the post, pass out the pick-and-roll, he can lead the break. He’s just one of the most skilled big men I’ve ever been around, and his ability to stretch the floor as well as finish at the rim is nearly unmatched.”
Green acknowledged there have been a few times where players have been too anxious to find their new teammate and passed up a shot. That chemistry the Warriors believe will naturally develop with time, but the rest of this season gives them the chance to experiment and see what they have with Cousins before show time in the playoffs.
“All of that stuff will come over time,” Green said. “Eventually we’ll just play. But I like to see that because it just shows how it matters to get another guy going, to get him to feeling like he fits and we’re moving in the right direction.”
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