Cousins relishes 'incredible feeling' in return

ByNick Friedell ESPN logo
Saturday, June 1, 2019

TORONTO -- For the first time since tearing his left quad on April 15, Golden State Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins returned to action Thursday night in a 118-109 loss to the Toronto Raptors in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

Cousins finished with two points, two assists and two steals in eight minutes.

"It felt good," Cousins said. "It felt good to be a part of the energy tonight. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I don't take any of these moments for granted. To be out there on the floor tonight in this atmosphere was an incredible feeling. I'm extremely happy to be a part of it and I enjoyed the moment."

Cousins checked into the game for the first time at the beginning of the second quarter -- the first time since April 5, 2013, that he entered a game as a reserve. The fact that Cousins was back on the floor at all is impressive given that the Warriors initially categorized him as being "unlikely" to return after the injury, but the reality for the group is that the big man struggled to find his rhythm after a long layoff.

Cousins is still working on his conditioning and mobility as he works his way back, but Warriors coach Steve Kerr tried to accentuate the positives of his return after the loss.

"I thought DeMarcus did a really nice job," Kerr said. "Made some great passes, we could run some offense through him. It's so early in the process for him. He played eight minutes and I thought his minutes were good, but it's a huge adjustment to play after a six-week, seven-week absence, especially at this level in the NBA Finals against a team that is pretty fast already. So I thought he did really well and we'll look at the tape, and we'll see what we decide to do with his role going forward."

What the Warriors know is that they can't count on Kevin Durant to return in Game 2 as he continues to rehab a right calf injury. Kerr said before Game 1 that Durant, who hasn't played since injuring the calf on May 8, has yet to be cleared for practice and called it a "long shot" that clearance would come while the Warriors were in Toronto.

The Warriors haven't officially ruled him out for Game 2 yet, but they refuse to use his absence as an excuse.

"KD's an all-time great player on both ends of the floor," Curry said. "So I could sit here and talk for days about what he adds to our roster. We obviously have proven that when he's out we have -- we can have guys step up, and that's going to be the case until he gets back."

As the Warriors wait for Durant's return, they'll also have to monitor Andre Iguodala's left leg as he continues to deal with some soreness. Iguodala, who missed Game 4 of the Western Conference finals because of a left calf injury, came down awkwardly on his left leg with 1:55 remaining in regulation on Thursday night.

While there didn't appear to be much concern, as Iguodala walked out of ScotiaBank Arena, Kerr noted that the Warriors would have an update on Friday.

"I think he's doing OK," Kerr said.

Thursday's Game 1 loss marked the first time in the Kerr era that the Warriors dropped Game 1 of a Finals series. It's a mark the proud group was not worried about much at all.

"They obviously played well, but our confidence remains the same," Curry said. "Block out all the noise about how, what these are firsts and this and that and kind of the doubt around our team. It's just come out and play hard, get Game 2, and take it from there. So I like the vibe. I say it a lot, but I like the vibe that we have in the locker room in terms of everybody focusing on what they need to do differently and the overall energy bump that we need to have and then go steal Game 2."

The confidence Curry described within the group echoed throughout the Golden State locker room.

"Our goal was to get one," Warriors swingman Klay Thompson said. "And it's still on the table for us. So I know we'll respond like the champions we are."