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Reports: Cousins targeting Jan. 18 return to lineup

Golden State Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins plans to make his season debut on Jan. 18 against the LA Clippers, per multiple reports.

Cousins has been recovering from a left Achilles injury that he suffered last season during his stint with the New Orleans Pelicans. The targeted date would mark 357 days since the All-Star big man went down.

Per Connor Letourneau of The San Francisco Chronicle and Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated, information was confirmed that Cousins would look to suit up on Jan. 18. After the Warriors’ 122-95 win against the New York Knicks, coach Steve Kerr conceded that Cousins could suit up even earlier than that.

“I think it’ll happen around that (Jan. 18) time,” Kerr said. “It’s not as simple as, ‘That’s the game.’ It’s somewhere in that neighborhood. Now that we’re getting closer, and like I told you guys yesterday, he’s made some big strides the last week or two conditioning-wise, so if that continues and (director of sports medicine and performance) Rick (Celebrini) tells us that he’s ready to go, then it could be that game.

”Maybe it’s the New Orleans game a couple of days earlier (on Jan. 16). Maybe it’s the first game after that, but that’s definitely the range.”

Cousins hasn’t played since last January, when the catastrophic tendon injury prematurely ended his eighth NBA season while playing for the Pelicans. He has made significant strides in his rehab work and, if he returns on Jan. 18, would have 36 games to get into a rhythm before the playoffs.

He has been practicing with the Warriors since early November and recently participated in three practices with the Warriors’ G League affiliate in Santa Cruz.

“We obviously want him coming back into a good vibe. That would be nice,” Warriors star guard Stephen Curry said after Tuesday’s win, “and us feeling good about ourselves with a guy like DeMarcus Cousins back in the lineup, so that’ll be fun.”

Cousins, a four-time All-Star, averaged 25.2 points, 12.9 rebounds and 5.4 assists in 48 games for the Pelicans last season.

Just three weeks ago, Cousins dunked on teammate Kevin Durant in a good-natured, post-practice game of one-on-one. Per Spears, the Warriors have enjoyed Cousins’ presence in the locker room all season, as his experience and sense of humor has helped younger players such as Kevon Looney, Jordan Bell and Damian Jones.

Overall, Cousins has made big strides in his conditioning improvement in recent weeks. Still, Kerr isn’t about to have oversized expectations for when Cousins does return.

“We have a decent idea how we’d like to use DeMarcus and in what rotations,” Kerr said Tuesday night. “It might not be as simple as `This looks good on paper.’ ”

It might also be wise for Golden State to temper its expectations of what Cousins can do, writes Letourneau. He reports that seven of the 18 players who suffered major Achilles injuries from 1988-2011 did not come back to the league. In general, big men typically have a tougher time overcoming Achilles injuries.

“Just seeing him progress since he’s been here, he’s been putting in a lot of work in his rehab,” Durant told the San Francisco Chronicle. “But I don’t know what to expect out of his first game. We’re just happy that he’s going to be out there.”

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.