Monte Poole

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.

Jonas Jerebko gives Warriors the 'stretch-4' they've really needed

Jonas Jerebko gives Warriors the 'stretch-4' they've really needed

OAKLAND -- Though Jonas Jerebko might not be the answer to everything the Warriors need, he has the credentials to provide something they’ve never had.

As a legitimate “stretch-4” coming off the bench, the 31-year-old Swede gives the Warriors an option they’ve never really known.

“I’ve been knocking down the 3 consistently for a few years now,” Jerebko said Monday in his introductory media session. “And I’m going to keep working this summer on getting the percentage even higher. I’m feeling really, really confident in my shot. Hopefully, I’ll get some open ones and knock them down.”

Jerebko shot 41.4 percent beyond the arc last season in Utah, his most accurate mark from deep since 2013-14, when he shot 41.9 percent for the Pistons. His career percentage is a respectable 36.3.

That’s enough to give Jerebko a role on a Warriors team that had abysmal 3-point production off the bench (No. 30 last season, 29th the previous season) and generally struggles with bench scoring (No. 22 in the NBA last season, 21st the previous season).

The Warriors addressed that issue last season by bringing in wing Nick Young and combo forward Omri Casspi. The problem persisted. The closest thing to a stretch-4 they’ve had in recent years was Matt Barnes, who at 6-foot-7 played the position in small lineups over the final six weeks of the 2016-17 season.

At 6-10, Jerebko is as tall as Marreese Speights, who over his final two Warriors seasons made a name for himself -- “Mo Buckets” -- as a reserve stretch-5. It’s conceivable, against certain opponents, that Jerebko could fill that role.

He’s willing, he says, to do whatever is needed.

“My main goal, my lifelong dream, is to get a ring and to win an NBA championship,” said Jerebko, who signed for $2.18 million veteran’s minimum. “Money is secondary to all of that. I don’t really care. I’ve played in this league for 10 years. A kid from Sweden, I could never dream of that.”

Aside from occasional minutes from 6-11 Kevin Durant, the Warriors in four seasons under Steve Kerr have lacked a stretch-4 whom opponents fear. Jerebko addressed the need for bombs off the bench.

“He obviously brought it up,” Jerebko said of Kerr. “I told him I’m not going to pass up open shots. I’m going to shoot the ball with confidence. I’m going to go out there and hustle and grab rebounds and whatever he wants me to do.”

The Warriors want him to, above all, make shots, preferably from beyond the arc.