OAKLAND, Calif. -- As Golden State Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins continues working his way through the next stage of the rehabilitation process from a left Achilles tendon tear suffered a year ago, he understands "nobody in this league is going to feel sorry" for him as he tries to find his footing.
"It's tough," Cousins said after a 118-112 loss to the Houston Rockets on Saturday night. "Obviously, I'm in like a gray area when it comes to that, trying to get back to being myself and also knowing guys are coming at me. Nobody in this league is going to feel sorry for me and I know that, so I'm going to go out and battle as much as I can and do what I can. But it still is a process for me; it's no excuse."
After a strong start in his first two weeks on the floor following a return to game action on Jan. 18, Cousins has struggled over his past four games, averaging 9.8 points and 7.4 rebounds in 21.8 minutes.
"Sure, he's frustrated," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said of Cousins. "Think about what DeMarcus has been through with the yearlong injury and the frustrating free agency. So, it's not an easy thing, a very difficult injury to come back from. After the first couple weeks, the excitement, the adrenaline, the wear and tear begins, and that's where you really got to be able to rely on execution. So, we'll work with him. He can do better; he knows that."
The larger question mark for the Warriors is that the much-hyped All-Star starting five of Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Cousins has struggled to find a consistent rhythm over the past few weeks. When all five are on the court together, they have been outscored by one point this season, according to ESPN Stats and Information data. In the group's first two games together in wins over the LA Clippers and the Los Angeles Lakers, the group outscored both teams by a combined 35 points.
Since then, they have been outscored by 36 points when the five men play together. Despite the recent struggles, Kerr remains confident the group will soon find its groove.
"I think the lineup has been good at times," Kerr said. "I just think there have been several games like this one where we get off to really slow starts, and we got to just be ready to play right from the beginning, but small sample size at this point for lineup-combination stuff. So, we'll watch the tape and try to get better and try to start better."
While the sample sizes indeed remain small, it is worth noting that when Curry, Durant, Green and Thompson play with anyone besides Cousins this season, that group has outscored opponents by 195 points. To Cousins' credit, he understands that teams are going after him right from the start in games, and he is trying to find ways to fix the same issues.
"Guys are attacking me in the pick-and-roll," Cousins said. "It's obvious. I just got to be ready for it, be prepared for it, try to stay out of f---ing foul trouble."
Cousins acknowledged that the rehab process and his recent performance have been "frustrating," but he remains steadfast in the belief that things will turn around for him soon, relying on an ongoing dialogue with Rick Celebrini, the Warriors director of sports medicine and performance.
"He's preached this to me since the time I stepped foot here," Cousins said. "There's gonna be good days, and it's going to be a lot of bad days through this process. Obviously, I'm in the bad days right now. With every storm, the sun shines at the end."
Cousins was optimistic coming off the All-Star break that his struggles would be in the rear-view mirror after Kerr revealed that the 25-minute-a-game restriction Cousins had been on since returning was no longer in effect. The lingering frustration for Cousins is that he hasn't been able to close games the way he is used to -- and he didn't do so again late in the Warriors' loss on Saturday.
His teammates and coaches are trying to stay upbeat around him, even after he posted a team-low -17 plus/minus against the Rockets. The most jarring numbers on Saturday were in offensive efficiency. With Cousins on the floor, the Warriors managed just an 84.7 rating. With him off the floor, that rating got up to 126.5.
"At this point now, it's probably starting to piss him off," Green said after Thursday's win over the Sacramento Kings. "But I know there will be some games that he will close. That's just kind of the way the cookie crumbles."
Despite the struggles, Cousins and his teammates can still see some progress each night, regardless of what the numbers indicate.
"I feel like I get better and more comfortable with each game," Cousins said. "I'll make moves and do certain things that I wasn't comfortable or I didn't feel I was able to do my first or second or third game back. I had a downhill attack tonight; it's certain things that I take away from each game that I'm like, 'OK, that's more like myself.' It may not show up to be pretty as a whole at the end, but it is positives that I take away from this game."