DeMarcus Cousins

Cousins Expected To Make Warriors’ Debut On January 18

JANUARY 9, 12:13am: Speaking tonight to reporters, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr confirmed that the team expects Cousins to make his debut soon, but suggested the January 18 date isn’t set in stone (Twitter link via Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area). It could also happen on January 16 (vs. Pelicans) or January 21 (vs. Lakers), per Kerr.

JANUARY 8, 9:39pm: DeMarcus Cousins is expected to make his highly-anticipated debut with the Warriors on January 18, sources tell Marc J. Spears of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Golden State will play the Clippers in Los Angeles that Friday night and then take on the Lakers two days later at the Staples Center.

Cousins is recovering from the torn Achilles he suffered last season with the Pelicans. He signed a one-year deal with the Warriors with the expectation of hitting the free agent market again in 2019. The team can only offer him a modest raise on his $5.3MM deal, though at least one insider has predicted that Cousins may consider playing on a similar one-year deal during the 2019/20 campaign.

Playing with the Warriors will be different than any team Cousins has ever played on. The pace and real title expectations are unlike anything Cousins has seen since he came into the league.

“They play faster than most other teams. It’s not even about the rust. That’s going to be part of the process. I’m aware of that. It’s about having my body in the best shape possible for an NBA game,” Cousins said last month.

Pacific Notes: Green, Ayton, Gilgeous-Alexander

A hot topic during the NBA season so far has been the inconsistent play and effort from the Warriors. Whether it is a result of injuries or struggles from key star players, the Warriors just haven’t played to the best of their abilities during the first half of the regular season. As Monte Poole writes for NBC Sports California, Draymond Green is ultimately the key to the Warriors turning things around and hitting their stride.

Poole writes that Green can look like a Defensive Player of the Year candidate one night, only to produce a pedestrian effort the next game. Green’s offensive struggles are no secret, especially with his inability to hit long-range shots cramping the Warriors’ floor spacing. But Poole believes that Green being fully engaged defensively on a more consistent basis will provide the team with that extra energy to compete at their highest level.

With DeMarcus Cousins set to return in the coming weeks, it will be interesting to see how he fits on the floor and what he provides for a Warriors team clearly searching for their competitive edge.

There’s more from the Pacific division:

  • At a recent practice, Suns rookie big man Deandre Ayton discussed the fact that he feels the pressure of expectations, mainly as a result of his competitiveness and desire to win.
  • After getting off to a very strong start, Clippers‘ rookie guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has struggled in recent weeks as he has hit the “rookie wall.” However, as Andrew Greif points out for The Los Angeles Times, Doc Rivers continues to be impressed with the young guard’s work ethic and understands that he will need more time to get over the hump this season.
  • As the Suns have played better in recent weeks, head coach Igor Kokoskov has enjoyed having the ability to tailor and adjust his rotation on a game-to-game basis depending on the energy from his players and that night’s matchup. Katherine Fitzgerald of The Arizona Republic details how the team’s young players and bench depth have improved in recent weeks.

Warriors Notes: Bell, Cousins, McKinnie

After an underwhelming beginning to the season, Warriors‘ forward Jordan Bell turned in one of his best performances of the 2018/19 campaign in Monday’s win over the Suns, and the Warriors need more outings like that moving forward, writes Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area.

“This is how we want Jordan to play,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr told reporters, “with great pace and energy and anticipation, being early on rotations defensively, blocking shots and running the floor.”

Bell played less than 16 minutes, but scored a season-high 10 points while also grabbing six rebounds, blocking three shots, and dishing out two assists. And after the Warriors just lost center Damian Jones to a season-ending pectoral injury, the Warriors have been desperate for any help they can get at center before DeMarcus Cousins returns from injury, who Bell credited with his good game.

“Boogie gave me a lot of confidence (Sunday) in open gym, me just kicking his (backside) and getting buckets,” Bell said. “He gave me a lot of confidence. Steve saw it and saw that the confidence was up and decided to play me today.”

Kerr added that he believes Bell is also playing better because he’s started to relax and isn’t trying to do too much – in other words, he’s learning to accept a role.

“He got off to a slow start this year by trying to do too much,” Kerr said. “Lately, he’s settling down. He’s gotten in a few times, even though he hasn’t been in the rotation, where he’s done his job and done a really good job for a few minutes. And that’s what we’re asking.”

There’s more from Oakland:

  • Last summer’s prized free agent acquisition, the aforementioned Cousins, went through all of today’s practice, reports Nick Friedell of ESPN. Per Kerr, who spoke to Cousins for a few minutes after practice, the 28-year-old still has to improve his conditioning. So, despite the full practice under his belt, it remains up in the air as to when Cousins will return to game action.
  • According to Mark Medina of the Mercury News, it appears that the Warriors will opt to keep Alfonzo McKinnie on the roster and let his contract become fully guaranteed on January 10. It would be interesting to know whether the same could be said had the Warriors’ matched the Cavaliers’ offer sheet for Patrick McCaw.
  • ICYMI: Marc Stein believes that Kevin Durant may spend one more season with the Warriors before looking to move on in free agency. Stein also hears that Cousins may be interested in staying in Oakland through the 2019/20 season and Klay Thompson may stay in Golden State past this season as well.

Injury Updates: LeBron, Cousins, Paul, Gordon, Fultz

Lakers superstar LeBron James did some shooting but little else during practice on Tuesday, according to Baxter Holmes of ESPN. He will miss his fourth straight game on Wednesday due to a groin strain suffered on Christmas Day. It remains uncertain how much more time he’ll need to return. “He’s working on his body, his game, himself all the time. But that’s the first time I’ve seen him shoot [since the injury],” coach Luke Walton said. The Lakers are 1-2 without James.

We have more injury news from around the league:

  • DeMarcus Cousins is still uncertain when he’ll make his debut with the Warriors, Marc J. Spears of ESPN writes. Cousins has practiced with the G League Santa Cruz Warriors and was involved in private 5-on-5 scrimmages with Warriors teammates last week, Spears notes. “It will mean everything when I get back,” Cousins said. “All the hard work. The dedication. Good and bad days. Tears, cramps and pain. Everything.”
  • Rockets guard Chris Paul has “no clue’ when he’ll return from his left hamstring strain, according to Hunter Atkins of the Houston Chronicle. Paul has missed the team’s last eight games.
  • Rockets guard Eric Gordon is hopeful his bruised right knee will heal fast enough to allow him to play against Golden State on Thursday, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle reports. Gordon, who suffered the injury on Saturday, is waiting for the swelling to go down. “I can’t really do a whole lot,” Gordon said. “They didn’t tell me an actual time frame. I know if I’m able to run. I don’t care how much pain I have, I’m going to play.”
  • Sixers second-year guard Markelle Fultz will be re-evaluated early next week for his thoracic outlet syndrome condition, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer tweets. The top pick in the 2017 draft hasn’t played since November 19th. Philadelphia remains hopeful that Fultz can return this season.
  • Wizards forward Otto Porter Jr. is expected to return to the lineup on Wednesday after missing the last 10 games with a quad strain, Candace Buckner of the Washington Post writes.

Stein’s Predictions: Davis, Leonard, Durant, Cousins

Anthony Davis will turn down a “supermax” extension from the Pelicans, setting up a frenzied competition between the Lakers and Celtics to pull off a trade, predicts Marc Stein of the New York Times in his latest newsletter. It’s one of several prognostications the veteran basketball writer offers up in a New Year’s Day column, but it’s the most explosive and one that will dominate NBA headlines throughout the summer if it comes true.

Davis could short-circuit the story by accepting the offer from New Orleans, which would pay him close to $240MM. But Stein expects Davis to value a shot at winning over money and look to join a loaded lineup in either Los Angeles or Boston. Stein also predicts the Lakers will be aggressive in trying to talk the Pelicans into a deal before the February 7 deadline while there’s not another strong suitor in sight. The Celtics can’t trade for Davis until Kyrie Irving opts out of his current deal because of an NBA rule prohibiting a team from acquiring two players currently on designated rookie extensions through trade.

Stein offers a few more significant personnel-related predictions:

  • Despite Kawhi Leonard‘s success in Toronto, Stein expects him to sign with the Clippers in July. He adds that the Raptors will likely need to win a title to keep their new star from heading home to Southern California in free agency and predicts Toronto will start rebuilding if Leonard leaves, including a trade of Kyle Lowry.
  • Kevin Durant may spend one more season with the Warriors before looking to move on in free agency. Stein admits there’s a lot of chatter about Durant joining the Knicks, but he believes the allure of playing in the new Chase Center will keep him him around for another year.
  • A “wise insider” tells Stein that DeMarcus Cousins will consider returning to the Warriors for another season, although they can only offer a modest raise on his $5.3MM salary. Stein expects other prominent free agents, such as Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler and Klay Thompson, to stay where they are.
  • Carmelo Anthony, currently in limbo on the Rockets‘ roster while looking for his next NBA opportunity, may have played his last game. It has been nearly two months since Anthony was last on the court and it doesn’t appear anyone is willing to take a chance on him, even at a minimum salary.
  • Kevin Love trade talks will heat up soon, and Stein believes the Nuggets should get involved as they try to hold onto the top spot in the West. Love is projected to return from toe surgery this month and will become eligible to be dealt on January 24, a little more than two weeks before the deadline.

Warriors Notes: McCaw, Center, McKinnie, Iguodala

After deciding not to match Patrick McCaw‘s offer sheet with the Cavaliers, Warriors general manager Bob Myers spoke to reporters today about his team’s decision, citing Alfonzo McKinnie‘s play and roster flexibility as the primary reasons to let McCaw walk. As Mark Medina of The Bay Area News Group tweets, Myers also mentioned the luxury tax implications, but suggested that wasn’t the primary factor.

According to Medina (Twitter link), Myers wished McCaw well and indicated that Golden State would have been happy to welcome him back. The Warriors’ GM still isn’t sure exactly why McCaw wanted to leave the club, tweets Nick Friedell of ESPN.com. “I honestly don’t know,” Myers said. “It’s all speculation.”

With that 15th roster spot still open and Damian Jones sidelined, the Warriors are monitoring opportunities to add another center to the mix, Myers confirmed (Twitter link via Anthony Slater of The Athletic). However, nothing is imminent, and the GM sounds prepared to wait until closer to the trade deadline – or buyout season – to acquire another big man, according to Slater (Twitter link).

“I wish we could borrow some centers from last year,” Myers joked, referring to a 2017/18 roster that included David West, JaVale McGee, and Zaza Pachulia (Twitter link via Medina).

Here’s more on the Warriors:

  • Myers was reluctant to discuss a specific timeline when asked about DeMarcus Cousins‘ return, but he was positive about the big man’s recovery process. “I think we’re nearing the finish line,” Myers said, per Friedell (Twitter link).
  • It sounds like Alfonzo McKinnie probably doesn’t have to be worried about being waived at the contract guarantee deadline next Monday. Myers said today that the Warriors’ players, coaches, and front office all want to keep the young forward around (Twitter link via Slater).
  • Before the Warriors officially made their decision on Patrick McCaw, Medina spoke to a handful of the youngster’s now-former teammates about the prospect of welcoming him back into the locker room. “It would be an adjustment just because he hadn’t been playing with us and we have a new roster and a couple of new guys,” Kevon Looney said. “But I think most of us would take him back with open arms.” Within the same story, Medina notes that owner Joe Lacob remains “dumbfounded” and “befuddled” about how McCaw’s free agency played out.
  • Andre Iguodala was fined $25K by the NBA for throwing the game ball into the crowd at halftime in Portland on Saturday, the league announced today in a press release.

Pacific Notes: Lakers, Cousins, Kings, Suns

After losing their first two games without LeBron James in the lineup, the Lakers picked up a win over Sacramento in Sunday. The victory is the latest signal that the club’s young core is capable of greater things, even without veteran leaders like LeBron and Rajon Rondo available, Kyle Kuzma said after the game, per Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com.

“We are not just one player,” Kuzma said. “We just got to eliminate little mistakes and we could have won all three games [without them]. For us, it is just continue to keep getting better and better and when those guys get back, hit the ground running.”

Meanwhile, while James continues to recover from the groin injury currently keeping him on the shelf, he appeared on the latest episode of ESPN’s ‘More Than An Athlete’ and made some interesting comments about his spot in NBA history. Addressing the 2016 NBA Finals, which saw his Cavaliers knock off the 73-9 Warriors, LeBron said that he felt that win “made me the greatest player of all-time” (video link).

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • With his debut for the Warriors getting closer, DeMarcus Cousins spoke to Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated about what he called “the longest year of my life.”
  • The Kings have been perhaps the most surprising team in the NBA this season, unexpectedly vying for a playoff spot in a competitive Western Conference. As Matt John of Basketball Insiders details, Sacramento is enjoying success in 2018/19 despite making several roster moves that seemed questionable at the time.
  • In terms of length and athleticism, the Suns see some similarities between their current roster and their ‘Seven Seconds or Less’ teams from the mid-2000s, writes Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. “Just a lot of athleticism,” new Sun Kelly Oubre said. “When we’re at our best, we get stops and we get out in transition and we score. The ball is moving around. Everybody is touching it. Everybody is moving. That’s when we’re at our best. It’s just a lot of length out there. A lot of athletes and guys who can guard multiple positions. It’s kind of difficult for teams to turn downhill.”

Vlade Divac Talks Playoffs, Cousins Trade, Future

At 18-16, the Kings are a half-game out of the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference, having remained in the playoff picture throughout the first half. Asked by Sam Amick of The Athletic whether Sacramento is a playoff team, general manager Vlade Divac said the club wants to be in the postseason and will push to make it. However, the Kings aren’t “desperate” to make the playoffs, according to Divac, who suggested that the club wouldn’t sacrifice key assets to shift to win-now mode.

“If I have to do something to help them, yeah I will do it,” Divac said. “But not just from desperation and to sacrifice everything that we’ve built.”

In his conversation with Amick, Divac touched on several other topics related to the Kings’ rebuilding process, which may be ahead of schedule at this point. The Sacramento general manager revisited the trade that sent DeMarcus Cousins to New Orleans and launched the rebuild, as well as the deal that sent the Kings’ 2019 first-round pick to Philadelphia (that pick will likely end up with Boston as a result of a separate deal).

Here are a few of the noteworthy comments from Divac:

On the decision to trade Cousins to the Pelicans for a package that featured Buddy Hield, a first-round pick, and a second-round pick:

“Look, I don’t want to go back and talk (about the trade), but I knew that second what I’m getting, bigger picture. Not just Buddy, not just the (first-round) pick, not just (the second-rounder)… But I knew also that I’m going to get down and be in the lottery, so we picked (that) course. That’s why it’s the whole picture, but people are thinking just on the surface, and I didn’t want to go back and explain and try to defend myself. I just believe in what I have to do.”

On whether he has been bothered by criticism during his tenure as Kings general manager:

“I know how to deal with that type of stuff. I just ignore (it), because those people, I know they want the best for the Kings, but they don’t know the details. They don’t know behind the curtain, they don’t know a lot of different stuff. For me, it was like, ‘OK, just give me time,’ and time came.

“I didn’t have experience as a GM, so I (supposedly) didn’t know the salary cap and somehow we end up with $50-60MM (in cap room) this summer. I was lucky, I guess. (Laughs).”

On whether the Kings are shopping for a first-round pick in the 2019 draft after having traded theirs away:

“No. Even that day when I made the deal with Philly for this (season’s) pick that’s coming, my thought process (was), ‘OK, if I’m not winning in three years, we shouldn’t deserve to have that pick,’ and I did everything to accomplish and bring players that can help DeMarcus. So I had to do crazy stuff. But I knew, if that doesn’t work I’m going to shift to Plan B, and Plan B worked. So now, I don’t need those picks. I have so many young guys that we have to develop.

“Of course, I would love to have (more picks). … I have room to do that (by taking on another team’s ‘bad’ contracts in exchange for the pick). So if I can convert (that into a pick), yes. But it’s not something (where) I’m desperate to do it. If it comes, great. If it doesn’t, I’m fine. I have other things to do.”

Pacific Notes: Cousins, Jerebko, Hield, Rondo

A blue curtain made sure the event was private, but behind that barrier Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins participated in a scrimmage this afternoon, the latest sign of progress toward his season debut, writes Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area. Poole states that there probably won’t be much notice before Cousins is activated, but today’s scrimmage is another reason to hope it will happen soon. He notes that the team doesn’t normally use the curtain that divides its practice facility unless a rehabbing player is close to returning.

Searching for a solution at center, the Warriors will treat any progress from the former All-Star as welcome news. After rupturing his Achilles last season, Cousins joined the Warriors on a one-year deal with the understanding that he might not be able to play until January or February. Kevon Looney, Jordan Bell and Jonas Jerebko are holding down the position in the meantime, but the defending champs frequently find themselves at a size disadvantage.

“Loon is playing his tail off as an undersized center against bigs that are a couple inches taller than him and probably just as strong, or stronger,” Kevin Durant said. “He’s got his work cut out for him, as well as Draymond (Green). It’s on us to help out a little more on the rebounding, but teams are spreading us out with the 3-point line around just one big. So we’ve got to pick and choose our spots when we want to go in there and help in the paint and when we could contest 3s, because both of those things are beating us right now.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Jerebko has been a better fit with the Warriors than some other free agents the team has signed, notes Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic. “He doesn’t lack confidence, and that’s the biggest thing for us,” Stephen Curry said. “Night to night, not really knowing how many shots you are going to get – he’s ready to play. We knew he could shoot and he will continue to have open looks and he just has to have the confidence to knock them down.”
  • Many Kings players have improved this year, but no one more than Buddy Hield, who is bidding for an All-Star appearance, writes Hector Amezcua of The Sacramento Bee. Hield wasn’t certain to be a starter when the season began, but is averaging 20.4 PPG and shooting 44% from 3-point range.
  • Rajon Rondo‘s clutch performance in the Christmas Day win over the Warriors gives the Lakers hope of staying competitive while LeBron James is sidelined with a groin injury, according to Joey Ramirez of NBA.com.

Stein’s Latest: Warriors, DSJ, Anthony, McCaw

The Warriors have kept a roster spot open all season with an eye on the upcoming buyout market. One name to watch is Robin Lopez, Marc Stein of The New York Post speculates in his latest newsletter. With DeMarcus Cousinsstill recovering from a torn Achilles, the team lacks a proven option at the five.

Draymond [Green] is going to play more center this year than ever before because we don’t have the same depth that we’ve had in the past at that position,” Coach Steve Kerr said over the weekend.

All signs point to Cousins returning in January, Stein adds in the same newsletter, so the team should have time to evaluate his fit and health before the trade deadline passes and buyout season begins.

Lopez, who has one year and $14.36MM left on his deal, may never be an option for the Warriors, as their only means to acquire him would be as a post-buyout free agent. The Bulls have made him available in trades and there’s simply no way Golden State could craft a reasonable deal that brings in that kind of salary.

Stein has more news and notes from the around the league. Let’s take a look at the highlights from his piece:

  • Rival executives expect the Mavericks to eventually move Dennis Smith Jr. Luka Doncic‘s emergence and questions about the two fitting together in the same backcourt is causing rival teams to keep an eye on the situation. The Mavs insist that they are not shopping Smith Jr., though Stein hears that the combo guard would attract interest on the trade market.
  • The Wizards have no plans to pursue Carmelo Anthony. Anthony remains on the Rockets‘ roster and the franchise prefers to trade him over working out a buyout arrangement because of luxury tax concerns. The 10-time All-Star has been looking for a new team for approximately six weeks.
  • Patrick McCaw continues to sit out as he waits for a team to present him with an offer sheet. His strategy has puzzled the Warriors‘ front office since there isn’t much evidence that an offer is coming and the team would still have his rights should he sit out the entire year.