You could almost forgive anyone for making hyperbolic proclamations after watching the Warriors run out their absurdly talented/borderline unfair new starting lineup Friday then blow the doors off the Clippers.
We weren’t going to go too crazy since Los Angeles, real talk, has been playing some of its worst basketball of the season in the midst of a five-game losing streak and did not have the services of Lou Williams (all game) and Danilo Gallinari (most of the game). But, god damn, was it crazy to watch the Warriors add another all-world player into the rotation on their way to a relatively easy, if not predictable, 112-94 win over the Clippers at Staples Center and then hear from the night’s main attraction that this was the first time he's really played with his teammates.
The final score will quickly be forgotten since the real focus of this one, of course, was the triumphant return of DeMarcus Cousins to NBA action. With cameras following his every move around the arena before the game and during warmups, playoff-level media was on hand to see what the Warriors’ luxury free-agent signing looked like with his All-Star teammates and repaired Achilles’ tendon. The man affectionately known as Boogie did not disappoint in his 15 minutes on the floor, later revealing that Warriors role player Quinn Cook reminded him during the game that Friday basically served as his first time balling with Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson.
“Honestly, this was our first time like playing together,” Cousins said. “Steve [Kerr] just kind of threw us into the fire. We haven’t even really practiced together.”
Godspeed to the rest of the league.
Hearing that from Boogie is when you kind of start to get giddy and spew crazy superlatives about what the Warriors really could be. To say the rich just got absurdly richer isn't doing justice to the situation.
Cousins, who said he felt like a “kid on Christmas,” finished with 14 points, 6 boards, 3 assists before fouling out early in the fourth. He showed you glimpses of his former All-NBA self. He was picking and popping from three, connecting on three of his four attempts, just like the old Cousins. He was taking up space in the mid-post, finding cutting teammates for incredibly easy baskets. Sure, he looked a little stiff running up and down the floor. But, truth be told, Cousins was never exactly considered among the most nimble big men in the game.
He admitted to having a ton of butterflies and hated all the attention he received leading up to game time. The sometimes prickly Cousins kept the hoodie of his warmup jacket snuggly over his head. But once it was time for tip, it was back to ball. Cousins electrified the Warriors on their first basket of the night. He ran a perfectly executed pick and roll with Durant that ended with a thunderous dunk.
“I’m just glad to know I can still dunk,” Cousins joked. “I never in a million years would have thought that’d be my first basket playing ball again. I liked that.”
Every Warriors reserve, watching it all unfold in front of them, jumped up like it they just witnessed a walk-on in college score in garbage time. That’s a testament to how Cousins has endeared himself in half a season with his new squad and the hard work he’s put in to return a little less than a year after the injury.
“They all love him. He’s been a good teammate,” Kerr said. “He’s an emotional guy and he’s loved because he cares about us, he’s hilarious, he’s just one of the guys.”
With more games and more practices with the crew, what other conclusion can you draw than it’s only a matter of time before the Warriors start embarrassing teams on their march toward a third straight NBA title? Cousins was advertised as a potential mid-season shot in the arm when Golden State took a flyer on him this past summer. At some point they hoped he would be healthy and push the core four upon his return to a new level. We definitely didn't see peak Warriors against the Clippers, but it was real easy to imagine it.
“We’re not going to drink our own Kool-aid in terms of understanding that just because he’s back, it’s a totally different team," Curry said. "We still have things we’ve got to work on, we still have the details we have to focus on tonight to continue to build momentum and it’s a work in progress for sure. Tonight was a great start, defensively we were solid, we got to do it game after game together. These next four games on the road are going to be tough so it’ll test us right out the gate with DeMarcus in the lineup.”
Cousins admitted he has a long ways to go to get back to being the old Boogie, but the fact he’s back already, and adding another dimension to the league’s most talented team, no matter what Curry said, is kind of nuts. It was barely a fair fight as is with KD, Steph, Draymond, and Klay on the floor. Now that Golden State has officially added a more than serviceable Boogie it might take an act of God to prevent a Warriors three-peat.