© Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
The countdown to watch DeMarcus Cousins in a Warriors uniform has dwindled to one week. The team has set next Friday, Jan. 18, as the target return date, though that isn’t set in stone. Cousins will play in an NBA game for the first time since rupturing his Achilles with the New Orleans Pelicans on Jan. 26 last season.
Every Warriors fan has eagerly waited for this moment, to see how Cousins will look, fit in with his star-studded teammates, and be deployed in various rotations. All of that is still being worked out. But one thing is clear, according to Warriors head coach Steve Kerr: Cousins will start.
That’s what Kerr said on his weekly appearance with KNBR’s Tolbert & Lund Thursday afternoon.
“He’s not the kind of player you bring off the bench,” Kerr said. “We’re talking about an All-Star player we need to put out there right away and get him comfortable.”
Throughout the past 10 days or so, Cousins has scrimmaged full-speed with the team. He has, according to Kerr, taken major steps in terms of movement and stamina. Kerr said Cousins, understandably, was nowhere near ready to play in an NBA game in the first few weeks of the season, as he recovered from arguably the most brutal common injury for a pro athlete.
Kerr has ideas for where to use Cousins situationally, but they won’t truly know until they see how the four-time All-Star looks with his new teammates. Cousins will likely start out by playing in four-to-five-minute increments.
“I think he will fit in from the standpoint that he is really skilled,” Kerr said. “He’s a great passer. He can pass from either the low block or high post. He made, I think, 118 threes last year with his season ending in January. He was on pace for probably a couple-100 threes. I would imagine he will be in that trail position in fast breaks a lot. He’s not a sprinter, so he’s going to be trailing the break often. If we are patient, the ball will work back to him, and he will have a lot of wide-open threes.
We can put him in pick-and-pop situations at the top of the circle, but we can also run stuff on the low block for him after timeouts. But those are all things we are going to have to feel through. Everything looks great on the board, but it’s got to show up on the court. We need to play, we need the minutes, we need the time to sort through it all.”
(Cousins made 104 threes last year, but we will cut Kerr a break.)
While Kerr mentioned that Cousins’ range has expanded as his career has progressed, he isn’t expected to take seven three-pointers per game like his sharp-shooting counterparts. Cousins averaged 6.1 three-point attempts per game last season. But the threat of his outside shot will space the floor and open driving lanes.
Defensively, the Warriors may revisit past concepts. For the past two-plus years, they have generally switched every screen. From 2012 to 2016, they did not always do so, whenever former center Andrew Bogut was on the floor. The Warriors perimeter players would fight over the top of screens and direct ball-handlers to the paint, where Bogut waited. Kerr hinted he may use a similar approach with Cousins, at least early on.
The bottomline: we won’t have to predict or speculate how Cousins will fit in for much longer.
Listen to the Tolbert & Lund segment with Kerr below. For talk on Cousins, skip to the 2:25 mark.