LOS ANGELES (AP) — DeMarcus Cousins was nervous. His stomach felt tight and filled with butterflies. He grabbed his phone and fired off texts to family and friends. He talked to his brother and sister.
Golden State coach Steve Kerr and the rest of the Warriors reassured Cousins it wasn’t just about Friday night’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers.
It’s about the rest of his career.
Making his Warriors debut after being sidelined for nearly a year, the big man called Boogie scored 14 points before fouling out of a 112-94 victory.
“It’s been a long journey,” Cousins said. “This was probably one of the best days of my life being back on the floor playing the game that I love.”
After missing his first shot, Cousins announced his presence with a one-handed slam off Kevin Durant’s bounce pass for the Warriors’ first basket.
“It was like poetry,” teammate Stephen Curry said.
Cousins was called for two fouls in the first three minutes and sat down.
“I’m just glad to know I can still dunk,” he said. “That felt good.”
Cousins joined the lineup at a time when Golden State has won seven in a row and an NBA-leading six straight on the road. Friday was the start of a five-game trip that will take the team back East, giving players time to bond.
“It’s good for him to come in at a time we’re playing well and things are calm,” Kerr said. “It allows for an easier re-entry.”
As if the Warriors weren’t potent enough with Curry and Durant, Cousins’ return made them the first team in 42 years to start five All-Stars from the previous season.
“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 details we have to focus on. These next four games on the road are going to be tough, so it’ll test us right out of the gate with DeMarcus in the lineup.”
Against the Clippers, Cousins shot 5-of-11 from the field. He was 3-of-4 on three-pointers to go with six rebounds, three assists, one steal and a block in 15 minutes before fouling out. He became the first Warriors center to hit at least three three-pointers in a game since Anthony Tolliver on March 17, 2010, against New Orleans.
“This is almost like training camp for him,” Kerr said.
Cousins played his first game since Jan. 26, 2018, when he ruptured his left Achilles tendon with New Orleans. He missed the rest of the season, including nine playoff games for the Pelicans. The Warriors signed him in July.
“We haven’t even really practiced together, so we’ve got a lot of growing to do,” Cousins said. “I still don’t feel like my rhythm is where I want it.”
After getting his fifth foul 30 seconds into the fourth, Cousins hit consecutive three’s, throwing up three fingers as he ran down court.
“He does so many things well for them,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “The post game, which he didn’t have because of rhythm, but he made a couple of three’s and he just knows how to play.”
When he got his sixth foul a few minutes later, instead of his usual scowl, Cousins smiled and high-fived his teammates, who gave him a standing ovation.
“Probably the fakest love I ever received in my life,” he said.
Durant said: “Hopefully that’s the last time we give him a standing ovation when he fouls out.”
Cousins credited his teammates for making his return “as smooth and easy as possible.”
“They all love him,” Kerr said. “He’s a really good teammate. He’s an emotional guy but he’s loved because he cares about us.”
And the Warriors feel the same way about their new big man.
“This is not the end of the story,” Kerr said. “It’s the middle and there’s a long way to go.”