The New Orleans Pelicans will be happy to see old pal DeMarcus Cousins healthy -- off the court, not on it -- when they continue a five-game trip with a stop in Oakland, Calif., on Wednesday night to take on the Golden State Warriors.
Cousins, who played parts of two seasons for the Pelicans before leaving as an injured free agent last summer, is expected to make his Warriors debut Friday night in Los Angeles against the Clippers.
The 7-footer has been practicing with the team and has received the green light from Golden State's medical staff and decision-makers to return from a near-full-year absence after rupturing his Achilles tendon in a game for the Pelicans last Jan. 26.
The Pelicans were 27-21 at the time.
Strengthened by a trade for Nikola Mirotic, New Orleans went on to make the playoffs last season, where they upset the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round before falling to Golden State in the Western Conference semifinals.
However, they also lost Rajon Rondo in free agency and have struggled to a 21-23 mark this season, a record that has been uplifted by the current stretch of four wins in five games.
Anthony Davis has led the surge. He exploded for 46 points and 15 rebounds on Monday in a 121-117 road win over the Clippers.
The Most Valuable Player candidate has averaged 33.4 points and 14.9 rebounds in his past 15 games.
"Amazing," Pelicans forward Julius Randle gushed to reporters about Davis after the Clippers game. "It's sad because it's almost like the norm. But what he's doing isn't normal at all. He's special."
A year ago, Davis was working in tandem with Cousins. However, that ended with the injury in January, and formally when Cousins signed a one-year deal with Golden State in July.
Kevin Durant matched Davis' 27.8 points per game in the playoffs last season, leaving the rest of the Warriors' deep roster to dominate the Pelicans in the five-game series.
An earlier meeting this season had a similar result when Durant outscored Davis 24-17 and Golden State used Stephen Curry's 37 points to overpower the Pelicans in a 131-121 home win on Oct. 31.
The Warriors enter the second meeting of the season on a roll but under less-than-ideal circumstances nonetheless. Not only will they be without Cousins -- as they have been all season -- but they are coming off a game Tuesday night at Denver, albeit a 142-111 cakewalk in a battle of the West's top two teams.
Golden State's 51 points in the first quarter were an NBA record for the opening 12 minutes of a game.
One Warrior who finds it especially important to be at his best against the Pelicans is Draymond Green, who vowed earlier this week to be a front-runner in this year's Defensive Player of the Year race despite having already missed 14 games with a toe injury.
Green had a hand in holding Nuggets star Nikola Jokic to a rare single-double (17 points, eight assists, four rebounds) in the Tuesday blowout. Twenty-four hours later, he will be asked to share in the challenge that is Davis.
"My thought process is still to go get it done," the 2017 Defensive Player of the Year said to reporters earlier this week of regaining his crown this season. "We have another 40 (or so) games this year where I can completely dominate defensively and go take that award. That's my goal."
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