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OAKLAND, Calif. – Golden State Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins, who is making his season debut on Friday on the road against the Los Angeles Clippers, attempted to get cleared to return from injury a few weeks ago, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
Cousins, who tore his left Achilles tendon almost a full year ago, was intent on speeding up his timeline to return, but the organization wanted to implement a 10-minute playing restriction, league sources said.
Instead of working through such a tight restriction, the four-time All-Star decided to continue the rehab process in order to get his minutes increased upon returning.
It is expected that Cousins’ playing time will be increased as he eases back into action. Coach Steve Kerr has not acknowledged an exact minute limit, and although Cousins has the green light to play Friday, his final evaluation will take place in Los Angeles on Thursday, sources said.
“We’ve got some ideas of how we are going to use him,” Kerr said, “but there is not a substitute for actual game experience. So, we’ll put him out there and see how it goes.”
Teammate Kevin Durant is viewing the situation through a cautious lens.
“I got high expectations and am really optimistic about the situation but let’s be real, we are human beings,” Durant said. “He’s been out for a long time and for him to regain his rhythm, we are definitely going to assist him on that. It may take a couple games for us to figure it out. … I’m excited to see the process of integrating Cousins into the lineup and playing a lot of minutes. I guess he’ll be on a minute restriction. I don’t know how that works, but once he starts upping his minutes, I’m excited about that, and I think he will be in a good flow. But just relax a little bit.”
Cousins, 28, suffered the injury as a member of the New Orleans Pelicans, who fell to the Warriors 147-140 on Wednesday night. With the bad blood that still lingers from Cousins’ assertion that the Pelicans never made him an offer to stay — a claim the Pelicans refute — he says he opted not to come back against his former team to avoid the media circus.
“No, I wasn’t going to return against them,” Cousins told Yahoo Sports before the Warriors’ victory. “I didn’t because I didn’t’ want to give [the media] a storyline. Straight up. You can ask [general manager] Bob [Myers] that. I didn’t want to give y’all a storyline. That’s why [my return] is Friday.”
When Cousins signed with the Warriors last summer, causing a league-wide panic attack, he had a goal in mind of being in the starting lineup on the first day of the regular season. He was eventually convinced by the franchise to remain patient and take his time. Regarding his return date, both sides closely collaborated on what would be best for the 6-foot-10 star out of Kentucky.
“It wasn’t anything where we were butting heads or having a long discussion,” Cousins said to Yahoo Sports. “We mapped out our plans and if we all didn’t agree on it at that point, then we’d set another goal. That’s kind of what happened. And at the end of the day, it was about getting healthy and I understood that. It wasn’t about rushing the process because, one, this is my first time dealing with a situation like this, so I’m going to trust the experts with this type of an injury. Two, I’ve missed enough basketball, and the last thing I wanted was to rush it, come out, injure something else and then miss more basketball and do the whole process all over again. I’d rather get it right the first time, and that’s what we felt like we did.”
Over the course of the year, Cousins said his rehabilitation assignments weren’t necessarily taxing on the body, but admitted that they took a toll mentally.
“I would probably say dealing with the repetition of the rehab process was the toughest part,” Cousins told Yahoo Sports. “Coming in and doing the same thing over and over and over again and not exactly getting the results that you want right away. And having to wait for the buildup to get to the point where you’re ready for the next step. Each step had its way of wrecking your nerves. As far as anything physical, that wasn’t an issue. It was more so a mental, tedious thing.”
With career averages of 21.5 points and 11 rebounds, Cousins says he plans to be himself when Kerr showcases his five All-Star starting lineup Friday at the Staples Center.
Cousins insisted it’s not about trying to prove he’s back to an elite level, but just trying to appreciate the fact that he’s fully recovered and ready to go.
“Man, I’m coming out and I want to enjoy the game of basketball,” Cousins told Yahoo Sports. “I miss the hell out of it. I’m going to come out and play with joy. I’m going to be happy to be on the floor just playing the game. I’m going to help this team in whatever way I can. I’m going to be a physical force on the boards. I’m going to do what I do. I’m going to do it to the best of my ability.
“As far as trying to come in and be a savior or anything like that, that’s not where my mindset is. It’s about coming in and helping this team win more games and I’m going to do my part.”
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