Before it happened, DeMarcus Cousins was a great basketball player having a great NBA season.
But on Jan. 26, 2018, he tore his left Achilles tendon as a member of the New Orleans Pelicans and hasn’t played since. The five-time All-Star center was having the best season of his career, but the injury was a devastating one — not only for that season, but potentially for his career.
Just short of a year later, Cousins’ career is getting back on track with the two-time defending NBA champion Warriors, starting in earnest Friday night against the Clippers in Los Angeles.
Despite the injury, the Warriors signed Cousins to a one-year, $5.3 million contract, giving Golden State the possibility of having all five starters with All-Star credentials. They signed him knowing that the Achilles injury could take about a year to rehabilitate, and knowing that he would miss about half the season.
Cousins has worked out with the team and spent some time with the Santa Cruz Warriors, the team’s G League affiliate, to get his game legs back. He has passed the tests he needed to pass to get on the floor.
Now, Cousins and the Warriors are at the point where the big man can join the fun and get on the court again.
What can we expect from Cousins as he approaches his Warriors debut?
Everyone in the Warriors’ camp has been nothing short of enthusiastic about the possibility. But what about observers who have watched Cousins play, watched the Warriors play and can provide a sense of the big-picture consequences of the big man joining the team?
Here are former Sacramento Bee columnist Ailene Voisin, who covered Cousins from 2010 to 2017 when he played for the Kings, and current Warriors television analyst Jim Barnett, who has covered Cousins this season. Each answered the same five questions, plus a bonus question.
1. What will Cousins bring to the Warriors that’s positive?
Voisin: “Let’s start with his skill set. He has fabulous hands. Can catch anything. When he doesn’t rush and takes his time, he’s an excellent passer. He finds cutters. He used to score only around the basket and with a mid-range jump shot, but now he’s an excellent 3-point shooter. (Former Kings head coach) George Karl got him shooting deeper and deeper.
“And he is an excellent rebounder. When he’s fully engaged and in shape, he can contest shots and make it difficult to score around the rim. He doesn’t have great leaping ability — not an explosive player — but he’s just so powerful and strong. There is nobody like him in the game and there hasn’t been for a long time. He’s an old-school, throwback center.”
Barnett: “We don’t have a big body. We lost David West, Zaza Pachulia and JaVale McGee. We’re playing Kevon Looney, a power forward, at center. Did you see us get killed inside by (Houston Rockets center) Clint Capela and (Portland Trail Blazers center) Jusuf Nurkic?
“Defensively, we need a big body, particularly in the playoffs when we’re playing the good teams, and Cousins is a big body. Offensively, we know he can score. If he gets double teamed, the Warriors will have a field day shooting the ball from 3. So he will go one-on-one and score at will.”