DeMarcus Cousins isn’t ready. He’s not close to ready.
While the Golden State Warriors’ top offseason acquisition practiced twice this week with the G League Santa Cruz Warriors, and may even play in a game or two with them, but he’s not going to be returning from his Achilles surgery any time soon.
“DeMarcus is coming along well, he’s practiced a couple times down in Santa Cruz this week, he’s working hard on his conditioning, and I don’t have an answer as to when he’ll come back,” said head coach Steve Kerr said.
Cousins, who tore his left Achilles tendon on Jan. 26 while playing with the New Orleans Pelicans, signed with Golden State for the veteran’s minimum, hoping to rehabilitate his image and reputation, along with his ankle. After participating in several five-on-five scrimmages since mid-November, Cousins has spent the last week working in Santa Cruz, whose head coach, Aaron Miles, said this week that Cousins “is probably not moving as well as he wants to right now.”
“He’s getting his wind back,” Miles said. “I know it’s going to take a while.”
While some speculated that Cousins could be back as soon as New Years Day, he may not debut until February, despite not having any real setbacks. The most difficult part of rehabbing an Achilles injury to a player of Cousins’s size — 6-foot-11, 270 pounds — is conditioning.
“There’s a lot of obstacles,” Kerr said. “Coming back from a serious injury in itself is a difficult task, but doing so in a new environment on a new team, it makes it even more difficult. I found going to a new team perfectly healthy was tough, because you’re playing in a new system with different teammates, new city. You throw all that together, it’s not easy. I think DeMarcus recognizes those challenges. He’s working to overcome them. That’s why he’s been more engaged in practice, getting more accustomed to our schemes, our style of play.”
While traditional recovery takes 8-12 months, it may take Cousins longer to round into shape.
“It’s all coming back to me, slowly but surely,” Cousins told media gathered at Wednesday’s practice in Santa Cruz. His legs, Cousins said, feel heavy. “I’m just trying to work back into shape, get my body back into shape.”
“That’s why we don’t have a timetable,” Kerr said. “He needs to feel confident with the Achilles, with his conditioning, with his rhythm and his timing and everything else. We’re not going to rush him back. We’re going to help him through that process. When it happens, it happens.”
After morning shootaround on Wednesday, forward Jonas Jerebko — who was sidelined for the entire 2010-11 season due to an Achilles injury — chimed in with the voice of experience.
“He should take some more time and he’s getting there,” Jerebko said. “We need him coming in March and April and May. That’s when we need him He can take his time.”
Golden State signed Cousins — who averaged 21.5 points, 11.0 rebounds and 3.2 assists over his eight seasons with Sacramento and New Orleans — with the understanding that they would not get a full season out of him, but would get him in time for a playoff run. Jerebko’s experience was markedly different. He was a second-year player who strained his ACL, as opposed to rupturing it.
While Cousins ruptured his Achilles in the middle of the season, Jerebko hurt himself in a 2010 exhibition with the Detroit Pistons, and was immediately told he would miss the entire campaign. Then, the 2011-12 lockout happened, meaning Jerebko didn’t play games for close to 16 months.
“We talk every now and then making sure he’s good,” Jerebko said. “Everybody is different with that injury. I just tell him to take his time and do extra on the injured leg always every day and stretch a little extra and do extra work on that leg. That stuff has been helping me through my career.”
At 19-10 and not even playing their best basketball, Golden State and Cousins have the luxury of time. Meanwhile, the Warriors will head to Sacramento to face a young, dangerous Kings team that’s in the thick of the playoff mix. Kerr said Cousins may accompany Golden State on the quick road trip back to the city where he spent seven seasons.
Injury Updates: Shaun Livingston will be out on Friday against Sacramento as he deals with a pelvic contusion. Andre Iguodala, who missed Wednesday’s loss with a hip injury, is questionable. Kerr was not concerned that either injury would linger.
“I think this is kind of a good, natural point in the season, [Livingston] needed to get a little bit of rest anyway,” Kerr said. “This is not rest; this is an injury, but with the injuries that we’ve had to Steph [Curry] and Draymond [Green], Shaun’s had to play, I don’t know how many games in a row he’s played, but before this season, before every season, we talk about resting Shaun and Andre periodically. This is a natural time for him to get past his injury, get off his legs a little bit, give him a little bit of a break.”