Whelp, that was fun while it lasted. The brief period where we could pretend to believe that other teams besides the Warriors had a chance at making a run for an NBA title is officially over after DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins made his season debut for the Warriors on Friday against the Clippers in a 112-94 win.
Even though it had been 358 days since Cousins last took the court—his season came to an end last year after tearing his achilles against the Rockets—his return could not have gone any better, or at least more on-brand. He wasn’t able to make the most out of his first touch of the ball thanks to good post defense from Marcin Gortat, but he was quickly able to move past that and show the league its greatest fear: Cousins serving as a pick-and-roll man for players like Kevin Durant. As a result, his first bucket of the night was a one-handed jam.
He was sent to the bench soon after for committing a couple fouls and some rest. Later, he was able to show that his athleticism hadn’t diminished much during his absence from the league, and finished off a fast-break after getting a pass from Kevin Durant.
As if that wasn’t enough, Cousins decided to truly demonstrate how indoctrinated into Warriors culture he has become and hit back-to-back three’s in the fourth quarter.
But the peak of his action on Friday came with 8:51 left in the game, when Cousins fouled out after jostling with Tobias Harris for a rebound. In 15 minutes of playing time he ended the game with 14 points, six rebounds, three assists and six fouls. Even with the late disqualification, he was a +21 on the court that night. Cousins couldn’t help but feel pretty elated after the performance he just had.
“Nah, I honestly didn’t [expect to play that well], man. I told myself coming in that I was going to try and come in, go with the flow of the team, make the right plays tonight. God got a mysterious way of working. Things kind of got going for me so, uh, I’m happy with the results.”
Performances like tonight won’t be the norm moving forward into the immediate future. Given the potentially devastating nature of Cousins’s injury, there will likely be some games where he’ll look particularly out of whack. Even on Friday, he was slow on some defensive rotations and showed signs of diminished explosiveness. But he will get better, which should be a scary thought for the rest of the league. Once Cousins is able to get his in-game speed back to where it was even just last year, the Warriors could start to experiment with pick-and-roll combinations that involve Steph Curry or Klay Thompson—a matchup nightmare that will steal hours of sleep from coaches everywhere, and that kind of play is only at a basic level.
Perhaps the worst thing about all of this is that he doesn’t even need to return to his highest level of form with Golden State. If this is as good as Cousins gets this season, the Warriors at least have a more-than-suitable alternate for their infamous death lineup come postseason time. Instead of getting to take on Kevon Looney’s bum-ass while the starters sit, teams will now have to suffer through stretches against one of the league’s most talented young centers at the helm of the offense. Fun, great.
Man, remember when the Warriors looked like a powder keg of emotions after Draymond Green called Durant a “bitch” earlier this season and it looked like the dynasty was finally starting to crumble? Those sure were happier times.