DeMarcus Cousins-Warriors union should work for 5.3 million reasons

DeMarcus Cousins-Warriors union should work for 5.3 million reasons

OAKLAND -- Relax, Warriors fans, DeMarcus Cousins is not coming to the Bay Area to trash the good vibes around your favorite NBA team. There are more than five million reasons he wants you to believe that.

When Cousins reached out to Warriors architect Bob Myers 17 days ago to see if the defending champions would be interested in his services, Myers paused. Not to examine his own thoughts but to consult with the All-Stars that would be sharing the locker room with a man perceived as a gifted keg of dynamite.

The answers, resoundingly and across the board, were yes. Team leader Stephen Curry signed off. Draymond Green was easy; he’s always stalking new talent. Klay Thompson is easier because he’s naturally no-maintenance.

As for Kevin Durant, he also paused. He had a question: He’s coming for $5 million?

When Myers responded that Cousins was indeed willing to accept the team’s $5.3 million taxpayer’s midlevel exception, Durant was sold. He said that was all he needed to know. 

Cousins, 27, has earned about $80 million during his eight-year career. His salary last season in New Orleans was a little more than $18 million. Once on the free-agent market in July, he had to know, even coming off surgery to his Achilles’ tendon, teams would be willing to offer at least half that much to a proven star. Yes, even with his “baggage.”

Yet there he was, barely into Day 2 of free agency, shopping himself to the Warriors at a deeply discounted price.

“When he made the gesture that he wanted to come to our team, that’s not words. That’s an action,” Myers said Thursday, after Cousins was introduced as a Warrior. “That’s saying ‘I want to win, and the money is not the most important thing.’

“You don’t come to our team if you’re looking to be the highest scorer or you’re looking to get statistics. We’re not the place to come for that. We’re the place to come if you want to win.”

The Warriors have reached the NBA Finals four consecutive seasons, winning three championships. They went through Cousins’ former team, New Orleans, in the playoffs en route to the title last month.

Cousins couldn’t play, due to his injury, but he was able to experience the postseason, however vicariously, for the first time.

“This is just a chance to play for a winning culture,” Cousins said. “I also have a chance to play with some of the most talented players of this era. Those two things alone, that pretty much sums it up.”

Cousins’ reputation is that of someone who plays with a chip on his shoulder that sometimes can be detrimental. He has twice been suspended for going beyond the league’s technical foul threshold. He has sparred with coaches, jabbed with media.

Nearly all of those moments were in Sacramento, with the hapless Kings, whose last winning season was in 2006, when Cousins was 15 years old.

Cousins generally behaved last season, and being on a winning team likely was a factor.

“In a winning culture and a winning environment, I think we all behave a little bit better,” Myers said. “Sometimes when it doesn’t go that way, it’s tougher. He has seen a side of the NBA that a lot of our players have never seen. There’s growth that comes with that. There’s growth with being someone who leaves (college) after his freshman year and comes to the NBA as a high pick and is expected to lead a team as a (19- or 20-year-old). That’s an adjustment for anybody. We all would go through that differently.

“He’s now at the point in his life and his career where he’s seen the difficult side of playing basketball professionally. Although in some ways he’s made a lot of money and done a lot of things, he wants to win.”

That Cousins is a productive player that thrives amid success seems to be the popular opinion. His former general with the Pelicans, Dell Demps, implied as much on The Warriors Insider Podcast this week. Hall of Fame guard Gary Payton, who spent considerable time with Cousins during the Olympics, agrees.

So, naturally, does Cousins, who has been in contract with many of his new teammates in hopes of establishing a greater rapport.

“It’s a great group of guys, easygoing people, maybe outside of Draymond,” he said to laughter. “But it’s a great group. I think we’ll mesh well.”

They’ll have to, as it’s the only way Cousins gets a payoff from his $5.3 million gamble.

Pelicans GM Dell Demps has nothing but kind words for DeMarcus Cousins

Pelicans GM Dell Demps has nothing but kind words for DeMarcus Cousins

It was 17 months ago when DeMarcus Cousins was traded from Sacramento to New Orleans, the newest member of the Pelicans, bringing unquestioned basketball gifts but burdened by an image that weighed about three tons.

That load is considerably lighter now. The Pelicans were good for Cousins, and he was, according to New Orleans general manager Dell Demps, good for them.

“We were having success, and things are good when you’re winning games,” Demps said Wednesday on The Warriors Insider Podcast. “A lot of times, when you’re losing games, things become magnified. There’s fuel on the fire.

“I don’t know what happened in Sacramento . . . but I know his time with us, we had success with him. It was a good run.”

Yet when Cousins became a free agent in July, discussions with the Pelicans didn’t advance past the conversation stage. So the 6-foot-11 center reached out to the Warriors and ended up leaving New Orleans.

“I understand,” said Cousins while looking back on his time with the Pelicans in a Showtime video clip released Wednesday. “They had a big year. They don’t want to ruin it taking a chance on me. I’m a damaged player. Cool.”

In Sacramento for the better part of seven productive years that were by turns trying and turbulent, Cousins’ first full season in New Orleans arguably was the best of his career. He was averaging 25.2 points on 47 percent shooting (35.4 percent from deep), a career-high 12.9 rebounds and a career-high 5.4 assists when he sustained a torn left Achilles’ tendon on Jan 26.

That injury cost Cousins his first playoff appearance.

The injury, which can take up to a year to fully heal, occurred in the final seconds of a 115-113 victory over the Rockets that was the seventh win in eight games for New Orleans. Cousins had posted a triple-double: 15 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists.

“When he was injured, we were fourth in the West,” Demps said. “It was a sad day. There was a cloud over the city, for a little while.

“But we wish (Cousins) nothing but the best. He’s a good guy, he’s a tough guy, he’s going to compete and he’s an incredible basketball player.

Demps cited Cousins’ relationship with Pelicans star Anthony Davis as a factor in easing Cousins’ transition to New Orleans. Though Cousins still played with plenty of emotion last season, he averaged one technical foul every 4.8 games, the lowest ratio since 2011-12, his second season with the Kings.

Cousins' popularity increased to a level that he received a standing ovation when shown on the scoreboard during Game 3 of the first-round playoff series between the Pelicans and Trail Blazers. That was followed by chants of “Boogie, Boogie, Boogie.”

The Warriors hope that showing can be repeated sometime next season. Cousins likely will miss much of the early season, but he hopes to return, healthy and active, before the next calendar year.

As for the concerns about Cousins adversely impacting the Warriors' fast-paced style of play -- he’s known to do his best work in the half court -- Demps offered a bit of a rebuttal.

“We played with pace with DeMarcus,” he said. “When he went out, I think we were sixth in pace. He’ll be fine. Talent has a way of just figuring it out.”

For the record, the Pelicans indeed were sixth in pace. They did, however, speed it up to another level after Cousins went down. They finished No. 1.

Shouting 'the NBA needs parity' is a lie in every conceivable way

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USATSI

Shouting 'the NBA needs parity' is a lie in every conceivable way

While the Warriors and Cavaliers were spending four years turning the NBA Finals into an annual reunion, complaints that began with a whisper cranked up to a shout.

The NBA is boring. There’s no suspense. The Warriors are so good; they’re ruining the NBA. Why bother playing the season?

And, finally, came the so-called solution: What the NBA needs is parity.

Which is a lie in every conceivable way. Parity was never the goal for former commissioner David Stern, and current commissioner Adam Silver wouldn’t have his name sullied by association with such a dirty word. Parity is bad for business.

Superstars on great teams, by contrast, keep eyeballs engaged and cash flowing. The most watched Finals game ever was Bulls-Jazz Game 6 in 1998, with Michael Jordan chasing his third consecutive title for the second time. No. 2 was Game 6 in 1993, when Jordan was chasing his third in a row for the first time.

No matter what he says or how he says it, Silver loves what the Warriors are doing. They’re filling seats from coast the coast. They’re TV gold on all seven continents. They’re No. 1, by a considerable margin, in licensed merchandise sales.

The Warriors are, by example, forcing other franchises to raise their games, to either compete or be exposed as incompetent or frauds chasing a dollar.

“People forget Golden State was built organically before they signed Kevin Durant,” says Jim Jackson, who played 14 seasons before retiring in 2006. “It was an organic concept that started with getting Steph Curry. And then they got Klay (Thompson). And then they get Dray (Green) in the second round. You get a Harrison Barnes. You bring in an Andre Iguodala and a Shaun Livingston. They were all there early on.

“And then, on the back end, after they’ve had some success, they added a Kevin Durant and a DeMarcus Cousins.”

The arrival of Durant two summers ago heralded the era of the Warriors as a super team or, as some seem to prefer, “Super Villains.” The Warriors personified something indomitable, and they’ve gained back-to-back championships by winning eight of nine games in The Finals.

They’re bossing the league, just as the Chicago Bulls did in Jordan’s heyday -- which was at the center of the league’s stunning rise in global popularity.

Warriors-Cavaliers represented the best rivalry since the Showtime Lakers and the Larry Legend Celtics met three times in a four-year stretch during the 1980s.

The current Warriors long to be thought of in the same exalted realm as those Bulls and Lakers and Celtics, who all have something in common: Historical greatness. The NBA wouldn’t be where it is without those three franchises.

“I like that the Warriors are pursuing championships,” says Michael Cooper, who won five rings with the Lakers, including two over Boston. “I like it when players pursue championships because when all is said and done, they’ll be mostly judged by that.

“As far a parity goes, that’s on the other teams. It’s up to them to fix their own franchises.”

The Lakers and Celtics, behind Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, are credited with bringing the NBA out of the dark ages and, in some quarters, saving the league. Jordan and the Bulls took it to another level.

Fame and stardom bat parity every time.

Parity is how the 44-win Washington Bullets staggered to a title in 1978, how the 47-win Houston Rockets hoisted the trophy in 1995 and how the San Antonio Spurs, in 1999, trudged to a five-game Finals victory over the eighth-seeded Knicks without either team scoring 100 points in any game.

Think there was dancing in the league’s New York offices a year later, when Shaquille O’Neal and Phil Jackson joined Kobe Bryant as Lakers? Parity was out, and the NBA was back in familiar territory.

Eight franchises are responsible for all but 12 championships over the league’s 72-year history. The Celtics have 17 and the Lakers 16. The Warriors and Bulls, with six titles each, and the Spurs with five, are the only teams with more than three titles.

The Kings haven’t won a title in 67 years, back when they were the Rochester Royals. The Suns, 51 seasons in, are awaiting their first championship. So are the Pacers, whose titles came in the pre-merger ABA. The Clippers? Please.

“If you’ve been around and were paying attention, you’d know the NBA never really had parity,” Jackson says.

“We do want to see parity,” says Jermaine O’Neal, whose 18-year career ended in 2014. “But I don’t think the Warriors are ruining the NBA. This started years ago. Multiple stars have gotten together and have played together but just didn’t win.”

LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined Dwyane Wade in Miami in 2010 and made four consecutive trips to The Finals, winning twice. Orlando traded for Grant Hill and Tracy McGrady in 2000 -- and came within an antiquated company policy of probably adding free agent Tim Duncan -- but was derailed by injuries and never got past the first round of the playoffs.

Who says the games are pointless, the season an exercise in futility for all but the Warriors?

“You cannot say that,” admonishes Hall of Famer Clyde Drexler. “It’s a long season; you don’t know who is going to win. But certainly, the Warriors look really good. They’re the defending champions. I wouldn’t bet against them.

“But my Rockets may have something to say about that. They’re very talented. If Chris Paul stays healthy, the Rockets are the champions this season.”

Ahem.