LOS ANGELES — There’s a lot that can be said about DeMarcus Cousins’ return to action, and very little that needs to be said, apart from this:
Boogie is back. And the rest of the NBA is in all kinds of trouble.
Cousins was only on court for 15 minutes against the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center on Friday night, but showed enough in an energetic and uncompromising cameo to prove that yes, it really is possible for the Golden State Warriors to get even better.
What do you call a super team that improves, anyway? Super-super?
Cousins was seeing his first game action since Jan. 26 last year, when he tore his Achilles in a New Orleans Pelicans game against the Houston Rockets. Following that, he signed with Golden State for the veteran’s minimum of $5.3 million, thereby adding even more firepower to the NBA’s two-time defending champion.
In the lead-up to the clash Cousins’ partner, Morgan Lang, sent him a photograph she had taken the day of his surgery, as he sat in a wheelchair and stared into the sunset.
“That put everything in perspective,” Cousins said. “It wasn’t planned or anything, she just caught me in a good moment and sent it to me – ‘think about where you are now and where you came from.’ ”
On the surface the Warriors’ 112-94 victory here was just another win for a team that collects a lot of them, but it felt like much more and suggested that the task of wresting away the title just veered from implausible to impossible.
Cousins also took guidance and support from Dominique Wilkins during his layoff and his impact was certainly highlight-reel worthy – and immediate. With only 86 seconds gone he took a pass from Kevin Durant, hurtled through the lane, and unleashed a thunderous dunk that had the Warriors bench spilling onto the court in excitement.
Cousins had promised not to hold back physically and he didn’t, eventually fouling out early in the fourth quarter.
By then he’d had a significant impact and fired the kind of league-wide warning shot that Golden State, which never tires of breaking the hearts of those teams that dare to believe, was looking for. Cousins finished with 14 points and six rebounds, including a trio of successful 3-pointers.
“I felt like a kid on Christmas,” Cousins said. “This is one of the best days of my life, just being out there playing the game I love. I was extremely nervous, I was texting my mom and my family, I talked to my sister. They said ‘you’ve been doing this your whole life.’ ”
The Warriors have handled Cousins carefully as he has worked his way back into top shape. The four-time All-Star felt he was ready for game action last month, and a viral video of him posterizing Kevin Durant in a game of one-on-one appeared to indicate as much.
However, head coach Steve Kerr is determined that his addition will not slow down the pace of the team’s play, and held him in reserve until Friday.
This result took the Warriors to 32-14 and extended their win streak to seven. No one is playing at a similar level right now, nor with anything like the same kind of consistency. The Clippers are the kind of tenacious team that might have troubled Golden State as they occasionally wobbled earlier in the season, but not on Friday, with a third quarter burst enough to put the game beyond reach.
Get used to it. The Warriors had the rest of the league at arm’s length already, even before Cousins’ ability, energy and will to prove his critics wrong entered the equation. The gap just got wider. Hand over the rings now … and save one for Boogie.