TORONTO (AP) — Golden State coach Steve Kerr says center DeMarcus Cousins is available for Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night.
Kerr made the announcement at the team’s shootaround practice Thursday. Cousins has not been on the Warriors’ active roster since injuring his right quadriceps muscle early in Game 2 of the Warriors’ opening-round series against the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Warriors originally thought Cousins’ quad injury would be season-ending. He got hurt on April 15.
Kerr said he has a plan for how Cousins will be used in Game 1.
“I do,” Kerr said. “But I’m not going to tell you.”
When Cousins actually plays, it’ll be his NBA Finals debut. He had not appeared in any playoff games until this season.
Cousins has been doing more on-court work leading up to Game 1, and the Warriors believe he’s ready to contribute — even if he isn’t fully recovered.
“I’m happy that he’s back,” Kerr said. “But I feel badly for him. You want to be in the finals. You want to be in the best shape and on top of your game as you can possibly be. Life doesn’t work that way. It’s not always perfect.”
Cousins said at finals media day Wednesday that he’s anxious to get a feel for what the finals are all about.
“I believe this is the stage that every basketball player, as a kid growing up, dreams of,” Cousins said. “To be here is a huge honor and it’s an incredible feeling, so I’m extremely excited about it and it makes me that much more antsy to get on the floor and help my team. If that opportunity is presented to me, I plan on taking full advantage of it.”
The comeback from the quad injury is just one in a series of comebacks over the last year for Cousins.
He ruptured his left Achilles in January 2018 and missed nearly a full year of NBA action. The injury dramatically reduced his asking price on the free-agent market last summer — instead of potentially being a max-contract player, the six-time All-Star signed a one-year, $5.3 million contract with the Warriors.
It was a low-risk, high-reward move for Golden State. The Warriors were coming off two straight titles and got to add an elite talent for mid-level money.
Cousins appeared in 30 games during the regular season, working himself into shape for the playoffs. He got hurt while chasing a loose ball and taking an awkward fall in the second postseason game, and now apparently will face the challenge of rejoining the Warriors’ lineup — one that still is without Kevin Durant while he recovers from a calf strain — during the finals.
Warriors forward Draymond Green said he anticipates Cousins dealing with some awkward moments while adjusting to the finals stage.
“One thing we do know is DeMarcus is a great basketball player,” Green said. “So at that point then you just go out there and you do what you’re great at. And everything else will fall in line.”