By Ed Klajman
Special to S.F. Examiner
TORONTO – After a nine-point loss to open up the NBA Finals, and uncertainty about when Kevin Durant will return, it’s tough to find much of a silver lining to the Warriors’ performance Thursday night.
One piece of good news came in the form of DeMarcus Cousins.
Six weeks after tearing his left quadriceps in Game 2 of the first round, just his second career postseason game, Cousins returned, logging eight minutes and four seconds of court time. Although he was 0-2 from the field, he had a seeing-eye pass zipped to Klay Thompson to set up an easy basket, and another great feed a short time later to an open Jonas Jerebko for a three-pointer. He also got to the free throw line on a couple of possessions, hitting three of them.
“It felt good to be part of the energy tonight,” said the 6-foot-11, 270-pounder. “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I don’t take any of these moments for granted. So, to be out on the floor tonight in this atmosphere was an incredible feeling. I’m extremely happy to be a part of it. I enjoyed the moment.”
While emphasizing that he felt no pain or discomfort at all when running up and down the floor, he said he carried a simple approach into whatever playing time came his way.
“Just come in and play the right way. That’s what I try to do every time I step on the floor,” he said.
He certainly did enough to earn the praise of Golden State head coach Steve Kerr, and plant the seed that more minutes may very well be coming his way in Sunday’s second game.
“I thought DeMarcus did a really nice job, made some great passes, we could run some offense through him,” Kerr said. “It’s so early in the process for him. 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 … We’ll look at the tape, and we’ll see what we decide to do with his role going forward.”
Quinn Cook, who had six points and played much of his nine minutes with Cousins, described the four-time All-Star as a “dominant presence out there with his voice, his leadership.”
“It’s just him being out there giving everybody open looks,” Cook said. “He got me two open looks, he got Jonas two open looks. He’s so willing to pass and he can put the ball in the hole with the best of them.”
“I’m happy for him,” said former Raptor Alfonzo McKinnie, who played eight minutes off the bench. “It was great seeing him out there and hopefully as this series goes on, he gets his rhythm and he feels more comfortable out there. He’s a big body. Once he’s down on the floor, once he gets in the paint, he’s a force down there. I think if we get him the ball down now, he’s a great player, he can put the ball in the net.”
Of course, Cousins wasn’t overly upbeat, despite the personal highlight of returning to action. He came to Golden State to win a championship and show that he was fully healthy and worthy of a lucrative contract, after tearing his Achilles in January of 2018. After another health setback, and now the Game 1 loss, that road is a lot tougher. Like all of his fellow Warriors, he knows there is a lot of work to be done over the next couple of days.
“We all could have done a better job tonight with our performance,” he said. “We’ll go back to the drawing board and look at our mistakes and we’ll come out ready to play game two.”