Kerr: Cousins will start at center when he returns

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — DeMarcus Cousins will start immediately for coach Steve Kerr when the All-Star center makes his long-awaited Warriors debut in about a week following a lengthy recovery from surgery on a torn left Achilles tendon.

Cousins has targeted Golden State’s game Jan. 18 at the Clippers as his return date and first game of the season, though Kerr said it could even be sooner if all continues going well – perhaps even against his former New Orleans team at home next Wednesday.

“The idea is we have to give ourselves a little leeway,” Kerr said Thursday. “That Clipper game is sort of the one we’ve targeted but we should give ourselves some leeway on either side, because we have to see how the next week goes. I suppose it’s a possibility that it could be New Orleans, maybe there’s a possibility it’s whoever’s after the Clippers … Lakers. That’s the range that we’re looking at.”

The coaching staff has spent the past couple of weeks more intensely planning for Cousins’ return and how he will be incorporated into different rotations throughout games, while also holding regular discussions with Cousins about the plan.

“It’s a relief. It’s been a long year for me, a lot of ups and downs,” Cousins said after practice Thursday. “But the finish line is ahead and I’m extremely excited to be back on the floor.

The big man has made significant strides with his condition in recent scrimmages, showing Kerr and the Warriors medical staff he is nearly ready to play in games again.

Cousins tore his Achilles late last January and it prematurely ended his season with the Pelicans. Before the injury, Cousins averaged 25.2 points, 12.9 rebounds and 5.4 assists in 48 games.

The 28-year-old Cousins doesn’t expect to dominate from Day 1, especially playing in a lineup that will feature four other All-Stars – Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. Kerr said he hasn’t thought about the star-studded lineup yet, knowing there’s still half the season to go for Cousins to get comfortable and acclimated.

Not that the fiery Cousins, known for drawing technical fouls, will change. He loves that Kerr and Green and the others love to show their emotions during games.

“Same person. I play with a chip on my shoulder,” Cousins said. “I use different things as fuel to keep me moving forward. I’m going to use the same things. I’m looking forward to proving myself on the floor.”

Cousins is appreciative of the support he received from family to get through the tough days of rehab. In turn, the young Warriors centers were grateful for the guidance from Cousins as he dealt with watching night in and night out from the bench.

“A lot of things switch up for you when you kind of are out of the picture. Reality hits,” Cousins said. “It’s kind of an out-of-sight, out-of-mind type of thing. A lot of people that were all about you kind of disappear. Reality hits you and you realize the people that really are in your corner, so this was a good year for me on top of all the negatives because you really realize who’s in your corner. Family.”