OAKLAND — The Warriors signed Andrew Bogut last month as an insurance maneuver. Now, he’s an absolute necessity.
Bogut’s value increased immensely Monday night, when starting center DeMarcus Cousins went down in the opening minutes of Game 2 of their first-round NBA playoff series against the Clippers with a quad injury of such severity that he did not return, and is scheduled to undergo an MRI exam Tuesday.
Though the Warriors know what Bogut brings, they were eager to see what Cousins, a legitimate All-Star, could produce in his first postseason as an active player.
Now, they simply hope Boogie is able to play at some point during these NBA playoffs. Based on photographs of his left quadriceps, that would require a miracle.
After nabbing a steal with 8:33 left in the first quarter, Cousins chugged off on a one-man fast break before slipping and falling and immediately clutching the front of his left thigh. He remained down for a few moments before rising with assistance, and being escorted into the locker room.
The Warriors shortly thereafter announced that the 6-foot-11, 270-pound center would not return to the game.
After eight seasons yearning for the playoffs and never making an appearance, Cousins signed a one-year contract with the Warriors last summer, expecting to make the playoffs. He finally got his wish. He lasted a total of 25 minutes — 21 before fouling out of Game 1 on Saturday and four before limping out of Game 2.
Which means the dimensions Boogie brings — these Warriors have never had a center with such wondrous offensive gifts — likely are gone before they had a chance to fully bloom as a member of this team.
Scoring from the post? Gone. Center as a 3-point threat? Not anymore. Bully ball in the paint? No longer an option.
This will hurt Cousins because it meant so much for him to be a part of this, and it will disappoint the Warriors because they so badly wanted him to experience this journey.
This, though, is why they signed Bogut. Just in case. Because you never know.
So the Warriors, for the foreseeable future, will look much as they did before Cousins was activated Jan. 18. The only tangible difference is that Bogut has been added.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr has said all along that he will deploy his centers based largely on matchups — after Cousins was the unquestioned starter. Expect Kerr to start Bogut against traditional centers, though he won’t play the 32 or so minutes allotted to Cousins.
Kevon Looney likely will get starts against “smaller” big men, and it’s conceivable that Jordan Bell will receive another opportunity — especially if the Warriors advance and face the Rockets in the second round.
Damian Jones, who opened the season as the Warriors’ starting center, tore his left pectoral muscle in December and is rehabilitating from surgery. He has progressed enough to play 3-on-3, but the Warriors have not issued a timetable for his return.
Without Cousins, the Warriors go from perhaps the most gifted scoring center in the league to what likely is a center-by-committee approach. And, still, they will be favored to win it all.