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.