DeMarcus Cousins will force Warriors to make drastic changes on defense


DeMarcus Cousins will force Warriors to make drastic changes on defense

OAKLAND – When describing the role and expectations for DeMarcus Cousins as a Warrior, Steve Kerr chooses his words carefully, not so much about Cousins on offense but certainly in regards to the big man’s defensive responsibilities.

“We’ll be much better suited to guard some of the big, huge centers,” the coach says. “Guys like (Oklahoma City center) Steven Adams and (Utah’s) Rudy Gobert, (Portland’s Jusuf) Nurkic. We’ve been pretty small against those guys and that pose a big threat.

“The flip side of that is (Cousins has to) guard the perimeter. We’ll have to play around defensively to figure out how we want to guard the pick-and-roll.”

The term “play around” is, in this instance, a euphemism for “make adjustments.” It’s something the Warriors must do. And those adjustments will have to be substantial.

In winning back-to-back championships, the Warriors utilized a switch-heavy defense, with defenders relying less on fighting through picks and more on simply attaching themselves to whomever comes their way. It has been tremendously successful largely because their roster has been versatile enough to make it work.

The ability to switch and do a decent job defending the perimeter has inflated the value of Kevon Looney. It was a contributing factor in Kerr’s decision to bump up Jordan Bell’s playing time in the last two series of the 2018 postseason.

It’s why JaVale McGee played a total of three minutes in the Western Conference Finals, which went seven games, why David West’s minutes were reduced by half in the final two rounds last postseason and why Zaza Pachulia played a total of 25 minutes in 21 postseason games.

Can’t switch, can’t play.

At 6-foot-11, 270 pounds, Cousins’ physical profile is more West-Pachulia than Looney-Bell-McGee. Though Boogie possesses fabulous offensive gifts, pretty much the full package, asking him and his surgically repaired Achilles’ tendon to switch onto James Harden 30 feet from the basket invites foul trouble or getting cooked.

“He’s not a runner. He’s not a sprinter,” Kerr said of Cousins. “So that will be a little different. We’ve played at a pretty high pace here over the years. I imagine he’ll be in a trail position on the break at times, which could be pretty good, especially considering the shooter that he is from the top of the key area.”

[ASK KERITH: How DeMarcus Cousins might fill Warriors' center need]

So there is roughly zero chance Cousins will be put in such a compromising position on defense. The Warriors, no matter what Kerr says or how he says it, won’t do it.

Listening to the whispers around the Warriors the past two weeks, the suspicion is that Cousins’ dramatic improvement in recent scrimmages was mostly because he increased his defensive intensity.

“Steve was looking for a certain thing, on the coach’s side of things,” Cousins says. “But for me, it was kind of the same thing every day. So it was hard to find that point where I could just break through and actually do what he was looking for. That’s more on the coaching side of things.”

When Cousins signed with the Warriors last summer, he aligned himself with a coaching staff unafraid to demand effort on defense. Moreover, any lack of effort will be called out by his new teammates. Though Cousins is good friends with Draymond Green, don’t think Draymond won’t blister him for loafing on defense. Loafing is not how the Warriors have won championships.

[RELATED: How DeMarcus Cousins in Warriors' lineup will affect Draymond Green's game]

So how do the Warriors play it with Cousins on defense? They’ll have to turn back the clock to Kerr’s first two seasons, when Andrew Bogut was in the middle. Though Bogut earned his money on defense and Cousins earns his mostly on offense, the physical profiles are similar.

As good as Bogut was on defense, he had no business trying to defend a guard on the perimeter. So he hung back as a rim protector while his teammates either switched or dropped.

“We’ve always had a format here, although we changed a little bit after Andrew Bogut left,” Kerr says. “We had a different philosophy the first couple years.

“But the last couple years, we’ve been a switch team and we have to figure out, ‘Is that the way to go?’ Or do we employ different schemes? And we’ve talked about that. We’ll work on everything and come up with the best plan.”:

Switching is ideal with the “Death Lineup,” which features three players are similar length. Though Green is the center in that lineup, it’s the guard or wing that is in trouble when he switches out to the perimeter.

Switching is not ideal with the Boogie Lineup. The Warriors know that. Cousins knows. His teammates know. So look for a more conventional defense. It’s the surest way for Cousins to stay on the floor in the postseason.

If the Warriors want Boogie’s offense, they’ll have to accept his defense. They’ll have to adjust. I suspect they already are.

Why Draymond Green reportedly switched his representation to Klutch Sports

Why Draymond Green reportedly switched his representation to Klutch Sports

While you may have been sleeping, Warriors forward Draymond Green made news late Friday night by reportedly switching his representation to Rich Paul of Klutch Sports.

Paul famously is the agent for NBA superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis, and was at the center of all the AD-to-Lakers rumors that dominated the NBA landscape in early February.

Any time a player signs with Klutch, the rumors of that player potentially teaming up with LeBron start to swirl.

So why, exactly, did Draymond make this move?

Marcus Thompson of The Athletic detailed the 2016-17 DPOY's potential motivation for changing his representation.

Green could simply prefer Klutch’s aggressive approach and increased clout on his behalf when this is all figured out at some point over the next year and a half. Undoubtedly, Green landing on the Lakers, in their division, is something the Warriors would have to contemplate should they decide not to re-up with him.

One source said Green’s primary desire to switch agents is largely about being impressed with what Klutch, specifically, is building and what LeBron’s camp is doing as a whole. 

LeBron's camp has indeed done some impressive things, including SpringHill entertainment (Hello, Space Jam 2), popular television shows such as "The Shop" on HBO, and plenty of other off-court ventures. Thompson also notes how Draymond is close friends with businessman Maverick Carter, a member of LeBron's marketing group, and has already worked with him and James on the Uninterrupted digital media platform.

So it is not surprising that Green -- or any prominent NBA athlete -- would want to join forces with such a prestigious agency.

However, the takeaway most NBA fans will have from Draymond joining Klutch will be, "Does this mean Draymond will eventually join LeBron on the Lakers?" And while there's no way of knowing if that will happen down the road, it certainly leaves room for speculation.

Green is a free agent in July, 2020, and as Thompson writes, the Warriors would have to consider the Lakers a threat for the three-time All-Star's services if the Dubs don't re-sign him. 

[RELATED: Draymond gave De'Aaron Fox advice about being a leader]

There is plenty of time between now and then, and it's likely both Golden State's and Los Angeles' rosters will look a lot different by then, anyway. Warriors stars Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson are free agents in July, and the Lakers are always linked to prominent players (i.e. Davis, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, etc.) who could potentially team up with LeBron.

But if Draymond's decision means anything right now, it's this: get ready for another 18 months of rumors.

How James Harden's dagger three-pointer triggered Warriors' hot streak

How James Harden's dagger three-pointer triggered Warriors' hot streak

OAKLAND – The Warriors are disappointed and perhaps even infuriated that Rockets star James Harden, diagnosed with a cervical neck strain, is listed as questionable for the game Saturday at Oracle Arena.

They want Harden. The Warriors so badly want to confront him that they are practically praying he’ll be upgraded to available before the 5:35 tipoff. They want all the Rockets, but Harden’s presence is particularly significant.

As much as the Warriors want to be the team that halts Harden’s streak of 32 consecutive games with at least 30 points, they also have a score to settle.

The last time the Warriors faced Harden, he drained a buzzer-beating 3-pointer over the tight defense of Draymond Green and Klay Thompson to give the Rockets a 135-134 victory, in overtime, at Oracle Arena. When the shot went through, Harden stood and began staring and jawing toward Green.

That game, on Jan. 3, probably is the most exasperating of the Warriors’ 16 losses this season. The locker room was simmered with anger, some directed toward Harden but most of it toward themselves for blowing a 20-point second-half lead.

That was the team’s third loss in five games and it happened to be Houston, the closest thing the Warriors have to a real rival. And Harden, the reigning MVP, the man who has made an art of baiting defenders and officials, had plunged the dagger.

“James hit that shot and, obviously, that can be frustrating,” Green said late Thursday night. “But that happens. He’s a great scorer. He hit a tough shot over Klay and I. We’ll live with that.

“But we had a lead in that game and we allowed ourselves to be in that position. When you allow that to happen, anything can happen and it did.”

The residual hostility may have been the best thing to happen to the Warriors this season. The champs checked themselves, rededicated and won the next 11 games – their longest streak in 13 months – by an average margin of 17.5 points.

The defense turned up, as did the assist totals. The turnover count came down. Though not typically a strong rebounding team, the Warriors posted advantages in nine of the 11 games. There was a tip-to-horn 31-point win at Denver, a comeback victory in which they wiped out a 17-point deficit.

The Warriors were hungrier. They were, at times, downright ruthless.

“Losing bothers us,” Green said. “It don’t really matter if it’s against Houston or anybody else. We don’t like to lose. That’s part of the reason we don’t lose much. At that point of the season, we were losing a lot. And we knew we had to get it turned around. And we have.”

Three postseason series in the past four years – most recently a stressful seven-game 2018 Western Conference Finals – have brought additional heat to games between the Warriors and Rockets. As the only current Houston player to start every game in all series, Harden symbolizes the enemy. When he succeeds against the Warriors it’s considerably more annoying than if it were, say, San Antonio’s LaMarcus Aldridge or Portland’s Damian Lillard.

So, yes, the Warriors want a piece of Harden every time they see him. He’s openly campaigning for a second consecutive MVP award and the Rockets are 21-11 during his streak. Primary running mates Chris Paul and Clint Capela, who missed much of the past two months, are back.

“We understand how talented they are, how well James has been playing,” Stephen Curry said. “I know they lost (Thursday), but it’s going to be a dogfight. We understand the momentum that we have been able to build, it’s going to be a defensive test for us.”

[RELATED: Rockets GM Daryl Morey isn't over Warriors beating them in 2018 playoffs]

The Warriors are 17-2 since Harden’s epic game-winner. Their offensive rating has been 4.5 points better than any other team. They’ve been playing their best ball, and they’d like to give Harden and the Rockets a taste of it.

If Harden can’t go, the lights on the marquee won’t be as bright. The Warriors’ fury might drop a notch, but it’s conceivable the sight of Chris Paul and those red and white jerseys will be enough to inflame proceedings.