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DeMarcus Cousins enjoyed Warriors debut with his mom and support system

Those who played a role in the big man’s return were there to witness it

LOS ANGELES — It was quiet at tipoff of the Golden State Warriors’ game against the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night. The crowd in Suite C20 was nervous about the season debut of Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins.

But just 86 seconds into the game, the tension in the private room dissipated, as Cousins emphatically dunked for his first basket since rupturing his left Achilles tendon nearly a year ago.

Cousins’ mom, Monique Cousins-Evans, screamed in celebration while holding her right arm triumphantly in the air. She slapped five with her son’s significant other and her husband, DeWayne Evans, who barked in approval as if an audience member at The Arsenio Hall Show. Meanwhile, Cousins’ surgeon, four chefs, personal therapists, friends and family members all erupted in applause.

It was important to Cousins that those who played a role in his return were there to witness it.

“God is good,” Cousins-Evans said about the memorable night.

The last time Cousins-Evans watched a game from a suite was on Jan. 26 last year at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans — it was the night her son suffered the season-ending Achilles tendon tear in the final seconds of his last game as a Pelican.

Cousins-Evans initially thought her son had sprained his ankle — until she received a call to come to the Pelicans’ locker room to be with him.

“I went into the locker room and felt the mood of the room,” Cousins-Evans said. “Everybody just looked like the worst possible thing could have happened. … I was like, ‘OK, what do they mean? He’s still breathing, he’s not unconscious.’ So I was basically OK, not really knowing the severity.

“As we got in the car and we started having conversations, I understood.”

Cousins went from being one of the most coveted stars in the league to being viewed as damaged goods when free agency began on July 1. No team, including the Pelicans, was willing to make the 6-foot-11, 275-pound big man a major contract offer.

But Cousins-Evans said her son kept his emotions away from the family during free agency until he made his surprising decision to join the Warriors on a one-year, $5.3 million contract.

“There was a lot of small group conversations, but not really saying anything at all,” Cousins-Evans said. “But I do remember when he did make up his mind that he was going to Golden State that he came into my bedroom and kneeled beside the bed and said, ‘Mom, I think I made a decision. I think it’s going to be Golden State. I said, ‘Are you sure?’ He said, ‘Yes, I’m sure.’ I said, ‘OK. Great job.’

“It was very out of the box. But when it comes to out of the box, he’s the person for it.”

While still rehabilitating his injury, Cousins initially dreamed of playing when the season started. Ultimately, Cousins, the Warriors, his family and medical advisers concluded that Jan. 18 versus the Clippers on the road was the right time. Once the date was decided, Cousins called home to his mother in Mobile, Alabama, inviting her to the game.

“I just go where he tells me to go,” Cousins-Evans said.

Cousins-Evans, who arrived in Los Angeles a day ahead of the big game, was optimistic her son would do well. She was not nervous about his return. Her son, on the other hand, was a nervous wreck. The NBA All-Star called everyone from his mom to one of his sisters to his agent Jarinn Akana to calm his nerves before his return.

Cousins certainly exceeded expectations in his return, as he had 15 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 made 3-pointers in 16 minutes. The Warriors were a plus-21 when he was in the game, and the Clippers were 0-for-7 when challenging Cousins defensively. The only negative was that he fouled out early in the fourth quarter, but by then the Warriors were on their way to an easy win.

His unforgettable return made him feel like a “kid on Christmas,” he said. What made it sweeter was the fact that his family and support system were in attendance.

“When I was in the gym, I had the organization and my teammates to lean on,” Cousins said. “When I was at home, I had my family. I just kept it pushing.”

As Cousins walked out of the news conference, the hallway was packed with media, team employees and notables from the basketball world. But the first person he noticed was his mother, who finally got to congratulate her son with an embrace and a kiss.

Marc J. Spears is the senior NBA writer for The Undefeated. He used to be able to dunk on you, but he hasn’t been able to in years and his knees still hurt.