CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins is taking big strides as he increases his minutes and builds more stamina after missing almost a year with an Achilles injury.
Golden State players were quick to give the four-time All-Star praise after he had one of his best nights since returning. He helped the Warriors defeat the Hornets, 121-110, by adding a season-high 24 points with 11 rebounds in his 14th game this season.
Cousins played 31 minutes, which marks the first time he’s eclipsed the 30-minute mark since his return.
“I’m more happy about that than the actual game,” Cousins said. “Make sure I give (coach) Steve (Kerr) a big hug after this.”
Kerr acknowledged that he was aware Cousins was hoping to increase his minutes and explained they were “very comfortable with the rotation and the way it worked out.”
“This is the happiest he’s looked,” Kerr told reporters. “He looked the most comfortable tonight and he made a couple moves around the hoop where he showed great agility. So, I think this is the best he’s looked.”
Cousins’ teammates Stephen Curry and Draymond Green both felt the star center played more aggressively Monday while explaining that the Warriors haven’t done anything differently to make him more comfortable.
“We play within our offense. We move the ball well, we set screens for each other, move bodies, somebody’s going to be open and he was aggressive tonight,” Curry said of Cousins. “Finishing at the rim, taking his shot, just trying to keep things simple and that’s what we expect. It’s only going to continue to get better and so baby steps.”
Green added: “He played really well and I think it was just aggressive. I think he was more worried about getting a foul called than he was just playing with contact (against Houston). Tonight he just played through the contact and it was just great for us and he got a big game.”
What seemed to be the biggest difference for Cousins? He said he took advice from Kevin Durant to stop overthinking his game.
“He’s been cussing me out, you know, just about stop thinking about it and just go play my game — be aggressive,” Cousins said.
Durant took note of Cousins’ performance against the Hornets, saying, “It was huge for him.”
“More so for him to get his legs up under him and see the ball go in the rim,” Durant said. “Get back to making the moves he normally makes and so it’s good to see that and show he was confident and felt good about it and so hopefully he builds on it.”