LOS ANGELES – There was a moment during the morning walk of the Golden State Warriors on Friday when Shaun Livingston, even after his 14 seasons of sighting at the N.B.A., felt the need to pause to admire what was happening.
So Livingston looked at the Staples Center and tried to process that DeMarcus Cousins had joined the starry Stephen Curry quartet, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green to execute some defensive instructions, as a unit.
"I'm not going to lie," Livingston said. "I saw the five of them together and for a second I thought:" Wow, that's a fantasy squad. "
The rest of the Warriors would continue to enjoy their own fantasy moment that becomes a reality on Friday night. Finally, making his debut with the two reigning champions, after almost a year in exile for injuries, Cousins frankly was as happy as we have seen him in a N.B.A. game, recording four effective sessions for a total of 15 minutes and 3 seconds on a 112-94 route from the Los Angeles Clippers.
There were some uncomfortable impulses on the edge, more than some of his family complaints to the referees and six fouls in those 15 minutes, but Cousins also accumulated impressive 14 points, 6 rebounds and 3 badists. Despite the oxidation of Cousins and the apparent lack of conditioning, Golden State outscored the Clippers by 21 points in their time on the floor before committing a foul.
"This is your night," Curry said later.
In fact it was. The 6-foot, 11-inch Cousins hammered home a hard dunk for their first basket as a Warrior, ran the floor with aplomb, harbaded the various Clippers who kept one by one in 0-of-7 shots, found a Cut curry for a The tray with an ingenious rebound pbad came off the post, took over a Tobias Harris who was driving and, above all, exhausted three triples.
Two of those 3, at the beginning of the fourth quarter, "really broke the whole game", Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.
Above all, Cousins smiled. He smiled and laughed a lot. He soaked himself in a celebratory restroom on Curry and Thompson's live television, proudly gave the game ball to his mother, Monique, and retired from his first real game in 355 days by proclaiming him "probably one of the best days of my life. "
"Like a child at Christmas," said Cousins.
And that could be the most ominous aspect of Cousins' long-awaited reverence with the giant he joined in a deal through free agency last summer. That deal, worth only $ 5.3 million, came amid the concern of the entire league about how Cousins would respond to a torn Achilles tendon in his left foot, historically one of the sport's most devastating injuries. That skepticism wiped out most of its free agent market.
However, Cousins, just one game in the Warriors' experiment, already seems happy and comfortable with this group.
If that continues?
"Things should only get better from here," Curry said.
Kerr said of Cousins' teammates: "Everyone loves him, he's a very good teammate, he's an emotional boy, but he's loved."
Even with a playful nickname like Boogie, there have been few happy occasions in the professionals for Cousins, who has played most N.B.A. games (536) than any other active player without an idea of the postseason and had been sidelined since he destroyed his Achilles as a member of the New Orleans Pelicans on January 26, 2018.
But his desire to find a productive role in the franchise that has won three titles in the last four seasons was very clear on Friday night. Playing in short bursts to start each quarter, Cousins, 28, still found time to show each facet of the versatile skill set that, when neutralizing the emotional side that Kerr referred to, makes him one of the most tempting talents in the game. the league.
"He will help them," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said sadly. "He does so many things."
In game 46 of what Curry himself described as a "very dramatic" season for the Warriors, the return of Cousins also helped Golden State to get rid of the taste of their last visit here to play the Clippers, when a nasty discussion on the bench between Durant and Green led to the suspension of a game without Green's pay and considerable tension later.
Those scenes seemed particularly dated on Friday, even as Curry cast a cautious eye on all the flashes that will come up in the next few days about how powerful Golden State is now with its five reigning All-Stars in uniform.
"We're not going to drink all the Kool-Aid," Curry promised, insisting that the Cousins integration is still "a work in progress."
However, not N.B.A. The team has been able to get an alignment with five All-Stars of the previous season from the Boston Celtics of 1975-76. Very aware of such a story, Kerr tried before jumping to convince his players to disconnect the external noise.
"There will be instant judgments, badysis and criticism," Kerr said after the morning shoot. "Or, at the end of the night, we will be unbeatable or with big problems."
When asked after Friday's emphatic win if it was safe to proclaim that his team was unbeatable, Kerr joked, "Yes, please go ahead, the season is over."
While things are not so desperate for the other 29 teams in the league, it seems that a new season has just begun for the Warriors, whose record of 32-14, while not overwhelming, places them at the top of the Western Conference. . The Clippers could have been short without the injured Lou Williams and Danilo Gallinari, but the Warriors' ability to place Cousins among their carp stories or mix it with trusted reserves such as Livingston and Andre Iguodala makes them look dangerous. as they have done during their championship race.
Realizing he was not making a double team no matter what the lineups were on the floor, Cousins called him "the first" in his career.
"I can get used to this," he said.