Warriors

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.

Can Rockets replicate success Warriors had with Steph Curry, Kevin Durant?

Can Rockets replicate success Warriors had with Steph Curry, Kevin Durant?

When Kevin Durant first joined the Warriors in 2016, skeptics wondered if Golden State could make it work.

Would Durant and Steph Curry be able to co-exist? Would there be enough shots for Durant, Curry and Klay Thompson? Would everyone remain happy with their role and numbers?

Those questions were answered pretty quickly. It took a few months, but Durant, Curry and the Warriors gelled midway through their first season together. They went on to claim the 2016-17 NBA title and ran it back the next season en route to a sweep in the 2017-18 NBA Finals.

Everyone seemed happy. Everyone got their shots. The third season wasn't as smooth, but it still almost ended with a third consecutive title.

After losing the 2019 NBA Finals to the Toronto Raptors, Durant decided it was time to move on and signed with the Brooklyn Nets.

But looking back, the experiment was a success. Durant and Curry co-existed, forming one of the most dominant duos in NBA history. Thompson didn't "sacrifice" as much as people thought he would, and ended up signing a max contract with the Warriors this offseason.

Now, a new duo — James Harden and Russell Westbrook — has critics wondering if the players can co-exist.

Both are MVPs and two of the most ball-dominant players in the NBA. So, will the Houston Rockets' experiment work? Harden believes it will.

“When you have talent like that, it works itself out" Harden told The Houston Chronicle's Jonathan Feigen. "You communicate. You go out there and compete possession by possession. You figure things out. Throughout the course of the season, you figure things out. That’s just what it is. When you have talent, you have guys with IQ, you have guys willing to sacrifice, it always works itself out.”

Harden used a key word there. Sacrifice.

The players on the Warriors were willing to sacrifice for the greater good.

Are Harden and Westbrook capable of making the same sacrifice? Harden is confident their longstanding friendship will help matters.

“It works,” Harden told Feigen. “It’s that trust factor. I trust him; he trusts me. And with the group that we already have and the things we already accomplished, it should be an easy transition for him to be incorporated right in and things are going to go.”

While Harden and Westbrook went to the NBA Finals in 2012 as members of the Oklahoma City Thunder, neither has returned since. Both have reached the conference finals in recent years but have gone no further.

Other Western Conference teams have loaded up, but Houston is bringing back a team that is mostly intact from last season and swapped Westbrook for an aging and injury-prone Chris Paul.

So maybe this is finally Houston's year.

[RELATED: Warriors could be 'terrifying' in 2019]

“That’s my boy right there, since I was like 10 or 11 years old,” Harden said of Westbrook. “Obviously, we were teammates for [three] years. Now, we’re at different stages of our careers. I’m excited for the opportunity. I hear a lot of negative things: you can’t, he can’t, they can’t. But we’ll figure it out. I’m excited for the opportunity. I know the rest of the organization is. It’s time.”

The Warriors were able to turn the Curry-Durant partnership into two NBA titles. How many titles, if any, the Rockets can grab with Harden and Westbrook is to be determined. But they certainly have the talent to bring the Larry O'Brien Trophy back to H-Town.

Why this ESPN analyst thinks Warriors could be 'terrifying' next year

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Why this ESPN analyst thinks Warriors could be 'terrifying' next year

The Warriors will enter the 2019-20 NBA season in unfamiliar territory.

For one, they won't enter the season as title favorites for the first time since lifting the Larry O'Brien Trophy in 2015 after significant roster turnover headlined by Kevin Durant's departure in free agency. For another, they will begin the campaign without star guard Klay Thompson in the opening-night lineup for the first time since 2010 as he recovers from a torn ACL. 

But that isn't enough to write off Golden State as an NBA title contender, according to ESPN's Kirk Goldsberry. 

"I'm not a betting man, but if I were, I'd be all over this bet," Goldsberry wrote in a Friday column, referring to the Warriors opening the season as +1,400 championship favorites according to Caesar's Palace. "Why? Call me crazy, but if Klay Thompson returns to action by March or April, and the Warriors are in the playoffs, they're terrifying."

Placing them in his third tier of championship contenders, Goldsberry noted that the Warriors' experience could give them an edge over other title contenders. He also proposed that sign-and-trade acquisition D'Angelo Russell could "take another leap" under head coach Steve Kerr. Russell, who was an All-Star last season, doesn't have the same defensive upside as Thompson, but gives Golden State another credible scoring threat while one half of the Splash Brothers sits on the sidelines. 

[RELATED: Why Mychal Thompson has MVP expectations for Steph]

That defensive drop-off is what concerns Goldsberry the most, especially with Thompson set to miss so much of the season while Durant and Andre Iguodala no longer are playing in the Bay. The Warriors finished outside of the top 10 in defensive rating in each of the last two seasons despite the presence of all three players on the roster. As NBC Sports Bay Area's Grant Liffmann observed earlier this week, those absences leave the Warriors with a lot of question marks on the defensive end of the court. 

The best-case scenarios for the Warriors next season involve a lot of "ifs." If Russell can effectively fill in for Thompson and if Thompson can return healthy and if the Warriors figure out their defense, then Golden State could be a force in the postseason. The Warriors will have 82 games to figure it all out, but they are still a team few would want to face if and when they do.