OAKLAND, Calif. — As Golden State Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins continues working his way through the next stage of the rehabilitation process from a left Achilles tear a year ago, he understands nobody in the league is going to “feel sorry” for him as he tries to find his footing.
“It’s tough,” Cousins said after a 118-112 loss to the Houston Rockets on Saturday night. “Obviously I’m in like a gray area when it comes to that, trying to get back to being myself and also knowing guys are coming at me. Nobody in this league is going to feel sorry for me and I know that so I’m going to go out and battle as much as I can and do what I can but it still is a process for me, it’s no excuse.”
After a strong start in his first two weeks on the floor following a return to game action on Jan. 18, Cousins has struggled over his last four games, averaging 9.8 points and 7.4 rebounds in 21.8 minutes.
“Sure, he’s frustrated,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said of Cousins. “Think about what DeMarcus has been through with the year-long injury and the frustrating free agency. So it’s not an easy thing, a very difficult injury to come back from. After the first couple weeks, the excitement, the adrenaline, the wear and tear begins and that’s where you really got to be able to rely on execution. So we’ll work with him; he can do better, he knows that.”
The larger question mark for the Warriors is that the much-hyped All-Star starting five of Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Cousins has struggled to find a consistent rhythm for the last few weeks. When the five stars are on the court together they have been outscored by one point this season, according to ESPN Stats and Information. In the group’s first two games together in wins over the Los Angeles Clippers and the Los Angeles Lakers, the group outscored both teams by a combined 35 points.
Since then, they have been outscored by 36 points when the five men play together. Despite the recent struggles, Kerr remains confident the group will find its groove soon.
“I think the lineup has been good at times,” Kerr said. “I just think there have been several games like this one where we get off to really slow starts and we got to just be ready to play right from the beginning, but small sample size at this point for lineup combination stuff. So we’ll watch the tape and try to get better and try to start better.”
While the sample sizes remain small, it’s worth noting that when Curry, Durant, Green and Thompson play with anyone besides Cousins this season, that group has outscored opponents by 195 points. To Cousins’ credit, he understands that teams are going after him right from the start in games and is trying to find ways to fix the same issues.
“Guys are attacking me in the pick and roll,” Cousins said. “It’s obvious. I just got to be ready for it, be prepared for it, try to stay out of f—ing foul trouble.”
Cousins acknowledged the rehab process and his recent performance has been “frustrating,” but he remains steadfast in the belief that things will turn around for him soon, relying on an ongoing dialogue with Rick Celebrini, the Warriors director of sports medicine and performance, .
“He’s preached this to me since the time I stepped foot here,” Cousins said. “There’s gonna be good days and it’s going to be a lot of bad days through this process. Obviously I’m in the bad days right now. With every storm, the sun shines at the end.”
Cousins was optimistic coming off the All-Star break that his struggles would be in the rear-view mirror after Kerr revealed the 25-minute-a-game restriction Cousins had been on since returning was no longer in effect. The lingering frustration for Cousins is that he hasn’t been able to close games the way he is used to and didn’t do so again late in the Warriors loss on Saturday.
His teammates and coaches are trying to stay upbeat around him, even after he posted a team low -17 plus/minus against the Rockets. The most jarring numbers on Saturday were in offensive efficiency. With Cousins on the floor, the Warriors managed just an 84.7 rating. With him off the floor, that rating got up to 126.5.
“At this point now it’s probably starting to piss him off,” Green said after Thursday’s win over the Sacramento Kings. “But I know there will be some games that he will close. That’s just kind of the way the cookie crumbles.”
Despite the struggles Cousins and his teammates can still see some progress each night despite what the numbers say.
“I feel like I get better and more comfortable with each game,” Cousins said. “I’ll make moves and do certain things that I wasn’t comfortable — or I didn’t feel I was able to do my first or second or third game back. I had a downhill attack tonight — it’s certain things that I takeaway from each game that I’m like, “OK, that’s more like myself.” It may not show up to be pretty as a whole at the end, but it is positives that I take away from this game.”