Why Warriors Must Go Extra Slow With DeMarcus Cousins' Return

OAKLAND -- The Boogie Watch is underway in Oakland.

DeMarcus "Boogie" Cousins, the Warriors' most celebrated offseason addition, joined his new teammates Tuesday for the first official workout of training camp. And he wasn't exactly an idol bystander.

"He did a lot of stuff before we started at 11," coach Steve Kerr said. "We had a lot of action on the floor from about 9 to 11. All the young guys were on the floor at 9 o'clock, 9:30, and DeMarcus did a ton of movement stuff, court work, ball-handling and shooting stuff on his own.

"But he did not take part with the team. We're just taking it slowly with him. But I don't think it'll be too long before he's really taking part in practice. But for right now, it's important that he gets his full workout."

Whoa. The word "slowly" should be modified to the phrase "very, very slowly," with no idea when Cousins might fully participate in practice. No matter how eager he is to get back to action, the wisest course for the Warriors is to proceed with an abundance of caution. Expect a strict minutes restriction when Cousins returns because that's what the medical staff will recommend.

Cousins is rehabilitating from surgery after he sustained a ruptured left Achilles' tendon last Jan. 26, as a member of the New Orleans Pelicans. Though the recovery period for the average individual typically requires six to nine months, a professional athlete usually needs another two to three months. Returning to previous performance levels, if it happens at all, often takes an additional year.

The 6-foot-11, 270-pound center seems determined to return sooner, and hopes to return to the form that made him a four-time All-Star. He was having perhaps his finest season when he was sidelined.

I wouldn't doubt him at all.

But there are other factors to consider. The first 40 games, which take the Warriors into the first week of January, are the perfect time to study the development of their young centers, none of which has a guaranteed contract for next season. They're going to need at least one, when Cousins, 28, almost certainly will move on.

So they can't have too much video on Jordan Bell, Damian Jones or Kevon Looney, each of whom is young enough to play for at least another decade. None is more than 23 years old.

"We will give all three guys a chance," Kerr said. "Training camp will determine a lot."

The best Kerr and his staff can cull from camp is a basic idea of each youngster's progress. Completing the evaluation requires actual games.

Thirty or 40 games, maybe more.

Meanwhile, Cousins stays on a rehab program until fully cleared. When he is, proceed slowly, with very limited minutes, like 10 to 15. If he wants 25 or more minutes, the Warriors shouldn't even consider it until after the All-Star break.

Cousins has been participating in isolated full-court drills for several weeks, but that doesn't begin to simulate full practice activity, much less playing in a game.

"It's been an adventure, to say the least," he said on Media Day. "But I'm in a lot better place now. Physically, I'm coming along great. As of right now, there haven't been any setbacks and I feel a lot stronger. I'm getting my feet back under me, and I'm starting to feel like an athlete again."

The key phrase there is "starting to." As much as he'd like to play in the preseason opener Saturday, Cousins knows he has months to go. The Warriors know it, too, and if it takes five months, so be it.

That still leaves nearly two months to tighten things for the playoffs, when he'll be needed most.

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