By LARRY VAUGHT
Even though Golden State lost 118-109 to Toronto Thursday in the first game of the NBA Finals, DeMarcus Cousins still had reason to be happy.
After being out for since April 15 with a quad injury, he played 8 minutes, 4 seconds for the Warriors had had three points (all at the foul line), two assists and two steals. Golden State coach Steve Kerr had indicated before the game he wasn’t sure if Cousins would play or not but seemed pleased with what the former UK standout did.
“I thought DeMarcus did a really nice job, made some great passes, we could run some offense through him. It’s so early in the process for him. I thought his minutes were good, but 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,” Kerr said. “So I thought he did really well and we’ll look at the tape, and we’ll see what we decide to do with his role going forward.”
Cousins had been out until January with an injury suffered lasts season and Kerr got an idea how quick Cousins could adjust to playing in game. He had also played in several intrasquad scrimmages in the week leading up to Thursday’s loss.
“I know that he can help us in bursts and we’ll have to figure out what that means,” Kerr said.
Cousins seems ready to roll as much as Kerr wants.
“ I feel good. It’s healed for the most part. I’m still working things into shape, building the muscle endurance to play at a high level, but everything’s coming along well for me,” Cousins told media members. “We’ll put our heads together and come up with the best plan moving forward.”
Cousins admitted that athletes are not the best judge of when it’s time to play after being injured.
“That’s hard to determine with most athletes. We’re stubborn, we’re bullheaded, we feel like we can fight through anything, and that’s not always the best case for the individual,” Cousins said. “It’s been difficult, it’s tough. You work so hard at something, and then you think you’ve overcome that rough patch and then something else happens. It’s the nature of the beast.
“I’m not the first and I won’t be the last, but all I can do is control what I can control and put the effort in every day and better myself, my craft, my body, my skill, whatever the case may be, and like I said, if the opportunity’s presented to me, just try to take full advantage of it, which I plan on doing.”
Toronto coach Nick Nurse knows Cousins could be a big plus for the Warriors going forward — game two is Sunday in Toronto.
“He’s big around the block, he’s a guy they can throw it into down there and possibly force you into some double teams and that’s always exposing some other things if you have to double team somebody. He’s also a really passer,” Nurse said. “They drop him out there at the top of the key, trailing in the break, and they hit him and guys start cutting and he can find them. So it presents us a few problems. We have tried to prepare our guys for those and hopefully come up with some coverages that minimize his effectiveness.”
Cousins admitted that playing in the NBA Finals is something he dreamed about doing as a kid. He said just being in the Finals — the first John Calipari player from UK to do so — is an honor.
“I’m extremely excited about it and it makes me that much more antsy to get on the floor and help my team,” Cousins said.
He doesn’t feel sorry for himself over working so hard to come back from his Achilles injury and then going down with a quad injury not long after he finally got back to playing again.
“Fairness doesn’t really play a part in this sport. Fairness doesn’t really play a part in life, honestly, but these are the cards I was dealt and all I can do is deal with it however it comes. So I’ll make the best of the situation, which I’ve tried to do,” Cousins said. “Yes, it was tough dealing with the Achilles injury and then overcoming that and then, boom, coming back with another one, but that’s just the cards I was dealt.
“So I would be lying to say like when it happened I wasn’t thinking to myself, why me or why now or whatever the case may be, but I’m a firm believer in everything happens for a reason. God’s got a plan for me. So I got to be patient and my turn will come around. So just got to be patient.”