- The Golden State Warriors lost four of five after the on-court dispute between Kevin Durant and Draymond Green, but have since righted the ship, winning six of eight games.
- Green is slated to return from a toe injury on Monday, and people will be watching how he and Durant interact on the court.
- The bigger and more interesting challenge will be the return of DeMarcus Cousins from a torn Achilles.
- Nobody is sure how Cousins will fit on the court with the Warriors, and it could make for an interesting chemistry experiment for the reigning champions.
Nearly one month has passed since Draymond Green and Kevin Durant’s on-court blow-up, and the Golden State Warriors have slowly righted the ship.
In the wake of Green’s explosion on Durant – one so cutting that some thought it might threaten the team’s future – the Warriors lost four of five, including four in a row, falling to 12-7. The team was without Draymond Green, who was out with a toe injury, and Stephen Curry, who was out with a strained groin, but they looked uninspired on both ends.
They have slowly crawled back since, winning six of eight games since that rare losing streak and now stand at 18-9. The improved play was helped by the return of Curry, who is shooting lights-out this season.
Now, the team is prepared for two more big tests: the returns of Draymond Green and DeMarcus Cousins.
Getting Green back should be a good thing for the Warriors. Green’s versatility and skill on defence were missed while he was out, and his ability to pass and spread the floor unlocks much of the Warriors offence.
Of course, everyone will be watching how Green and Durant interact. They have only played one game together, a 107-86 loss to the Houston Rockets, three days after the blow-up against the Los Angeles Clippers. Durant and Green appeared to be tolerant of each other, but the performance wasn’t exactly inspiring.
The team appears to have moved on, but Green and Durant haven’t played together since the incident. Green has been out with an injured toe, and any signs of friction will undoubtedly be analysed by the NBA world when he returns. One report from Yahoo indicated that teams were circling the Warriors to see how they would respond to the dispute.
Assuming Green is integrated back into the fold seamlessly, the more significant event on the horizon will be the return of Cousins.
Cousins has been sent down to the Warriors’ G League team to continue his rehab from a torn Achilles, a crucial step in his comeback. The Warriors are reportedly targeting a return for Cousins sometime after Christmas.
Nobody knows how Cousins will work with the Warriors. His shocking decision to join the Warriors this summer was a low-risk, high-reward move for the team. Even Steve Kerr has admitted that Cousins’ stint with the team will be short. Because Cousins signed a one-year deal, the Warriors don’t have his full Bird Rights and can only offer him a moderate raise. If all goes well with Cousins, then he’ll seek out a much bigger contract in free agency. If it doesn’t go as planned – well, the Warriors probably won’t want to re-sign him.
But the Warriors have never had a player like Cousins. Theoretically, he could fit their scheme by spreading the floor. He would also be a playmaker from the low and high posts, and even work one-on-one, acting like the type of scorer they have never had at the center position.
But at the same time, it is not hard to imagine a scenario where Cousins doesn’t fit with the team. He’s generally a plodding center. He likes to have the ball, and some of his preferred shots may not mix with the Warriors’ game plan. It’s unclear how often they will halt their usually crisp, fluid, motion-based offence to let him post up or go one-on-one.
What if Cousins and the Warriors don’t mesh? Golden State has the talent to outlast opponents, even with some less-effective lineups. But what if the Warriors best players don’t click with Cousins? Will his minutes vanish? Will they have to mix and match stars to fit his skill set better? Will they have to close games with him on the bench?
And what if they begin losing games? The addition of Cousins has been considered a positive challenge for the Warriors – a new and interesting piece to integrate into the team to keep players engaged. But if things go south for any reason, it will be a fascinating chemistry experiment in Golden State.
The Warriors likely feel good about where they stand. They haven’t had a fully healthy team in weeks. They had a near-catastrophic blow-up that seems to have blown over for now. Even in the deep and dangerous West, it’s unclear who the second-best team is that could truly challenge the Warriors.
The returns of Green and Cousins should only add to the intrigue of the team and reveal how the season will play out.
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