Warriors

Warriors' DeMarcus Cousins learns consequences of betting on yourself

Warriors' DeMarcus Cousins learns consequences of betting on yourself

Nine months ago, DeMarcus Cousins sat in the Warriors practice facility in downtown Oakland in search for a new start. 

With a recently repaired left Achilles tendon, Cousins signed a one-year, $5.3 million contract with Golden State after a contract dispute with the Pelicans. His had the goal of gaining back his all-star form while playing on the postseason stage that eluded him his first eight years in the league. 

After three months of rehab, Cousins seemed to be making true on both of those goals, as he showed signs of his pre-tear ability down the stretch of the regular season. Then, three minutes into his second career postseason game, Cousins tumbled reaching for a loose ball. 

An MRI Tuesday morning revealed a torn left quad and the Warriors have ruled out Cousins indefinitely. With the news, Cousins finds himself in familiar territory while experiencing the potential shortfalls that come with the bold decision to bet on yourself.

"I know its frustrating for him," Warriors big man Kevon Looney said following Monday's 135-131 Game 2 first-round loss to the Clippers. "I've been through something like that, getting hurt, getting all the way back and then getting hurt again."

Cousins' journey to this point started more than a year ago when, as a member of the Pelicans, he tore his Achilles reaching for a loose ball in the waning moments of a midseason win over the Rockets. The injury sparked an intense rehab process, with Cousins hoping to both get back to form and find a decent payday in free agency.

Depending on who you ask, Cousins may or may not have had options heading into free agency last summer. Shortly after he signed with the Warriors, The New York Times reported that Cousins rebuffed a two-year, $40 million extension shortly after his injury -- a report Cousins denied. 

"I’m gonna put it like this: Only me and Dell Demps know what was said on the phone that night," Cousins said during his introductory press conference. "We both know the truth. And I’ll leave it at that."

In any event, signing with the Warriors was the ultimate sign that Cousins was betting on himself. History suggests the practice is a mixed bag. Four years ago, then-Bulls guard Jimmy Butler -- after turning down a $40 million extension prior to the 2014-15 season -- signed a five-year deal worth $95 million. Two years later, then-Mavericks big man Nerlens Noel turned down a reported four-year, $70 million offer from the team, eventually signing a one-year $4.1 million deal. 

Since his January return, Cousins seemed to be following the path of Butler. Over his last 19 regular season games, he averaged 17.6 points and 9.1 rebounds on 50 percent from the field - including a 28 point, 13 rebound performance against the Denver Nuggets, helping Golden State secure the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. 

[RELATED: What's ahead for Dubs, Boogie after center's quad injury]

Minutes into Cousins' introduction to the Bay Area media, Warriors general manager Bob Myers looked to Cousins with a declaration. 

"You deserve to play playoff basketball," Myers said. "I'm so excited to see you play in the playoffs I can't wait to see you in the playoffs." 

But now, Cousins' postseason future and beyond is as uncertain as it was when he first donned a Warriors' uniform. 

Lakers need more than Anthony Davis to unseat Warriors as West's best

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AP

Lakers need more than Anthony Davis to unseat Warriors as West's best

The Lakers appear, at first glance, to have achieved their goal of marrying two cornerstones to form a powerhouse. Presenting LeBron James with Anthony Davis means they can start printing tickets to the 2020 NBA Finals.

Suddenly, Lakers fans are dancing on LA freeways, confident after the events of Saturday that their team is destined to end at five the Warriors’ streak of consecutive Finals appearances.

Actually, probably not.

Oh, the Warriors will have to be both magical and lucky — which is conceivable, considering their lack of either over the past couple months — to make it six in a row. Their hurdles are higher than ever, and they know it. Some team will to be good enough to unseat them at the top of the Western Conference and maybe bump them out of the playoffs.

Don’t expect that team to be the Lakers. Before handing them 60 wins and a skate to the conference finals, much less a Larry O’Brien Trophy, consider the magic and luck they are going to need.

Wading past the surface layer and taking a closer look at the Lakers uncovers enough conditions and complications to prevent the raging success visualized by general manager Rob Pelinka upon trading one-third of the team’s current rotation and a considerable portion of its future to New Orleans to add Davis. The Lakers lost Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart and Brandon Ingram, as well as three first-round picks, including the No. 4 overall in next week’s draft.

While the Pelicans will have quality young players for the future, the Lakers’ moves are being dictated by the LeBron timetable.

LeBron turns 35 in December. He leads all active NBA players — including 41-year-old Vince Carter — in career minutes. He missed a career-high 27 games last season, some for “rest,” most due to injuries, particularly a groin strain. He’s not getting better. He’s getting older.

The Lakers will be lucky to get 70 games from James next season, and it will require a measure of magic for LeBron to muster the kind of postseason that meets his standard.

As great as Davis is, and there is no denying that, the one knock on him has been his uncanny ability to get injured. He missed 26 games last season, some due to injuries and some because the Pelicans insisted.

Davis, 26, has played seven seasons, missing at least 14 games in all but two. His career high for games played is 75, achieved in back-to-back seasons (2016-17, 2017-18). He has missed an average of 15.4 games per season. He’ll need luck to stay healthy in 2019-20.

To summarize, the Lakers are building around the oldest wheels in the NBA and the league’s most injury-prone superstar.

LeBron’s championship window is starting to close, and Davis alone is not enough to keep it from shrinking.

Unless the Lakers add a Kyrie Irving or a Kemba Walker — both free agents are rumored to be targets for LA — along with a couple shooters, the best they can expect is to be marginally better than they were before LeBron sustained his season-ending injury last December. They were in fourth place in the Western Conference.

Walker is both fabulous and durable. The 29-year-old point guard also has stated a desire to remain in Charlotte, even at a discount.

Irving dazzles more frequently than Walker but also spends more time out of the lineup. Only once in his eight-year career has he missed fewer than 10 games. He missed 15 last season, 22 the year before.

Both Walker and Irving command massive contracts, and the Lakers have a max slot available.

[RELATED: Teams coming for Warriors' crown]

Other names are being floated, most notably Jimmy Butler, but whomever decides to sign with the Lakers will do so knowing LeBron’s best days are behind him, Davis will spend plenty of time on the sideline and the Lakers are beset with ownership/management problems.

So, let’s not crown them yet. If the Lakers bring in three more quality players, they might have time to compete for a championship. They’d better hurry.

Lakers' Anthony Davis trade starts arms race to take Warriors' crown

Lakers' Anthony Davis trade starts arms race to take Warriors' crown

The Warriors have grown accustomed to being the hunted over the last half-decade.

Over that span, the rest of the NBA has been in an arms race to catch them, to no avail. With Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Kevin Durant, Golden State achieved the greatest five-year run in NBA history. 

Now, after the Warriors’ 2019 NBA Finals loss to the Toronto Raptors and injuries to Durant and Thompson, the rest of the league is primed to permanently end the dynasty.

The latest example comes out of Los Angeles, where the Lakers — who will open their preseason against the Warriors on Oct. 5 in the first game in San Francisco's Chase Center — reportedly have traded for superstar Pelicans big man Anthony Davis, shipping out Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram and three first-round picks, including the No. 4 overall pick in Thursday's draft.

More intriguing, the team could have between $27 million and $32 million in salary-cap space to potentially use on a free agency pool that includes Durant, Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler and Kemba Walker.

The Warriors aren’t strangers to arms races against them, most notably from the Houston Rockets, who admittedly obsessed with the Warriors, traded for Chris Paul in 2017 to achieve common footing. More recently, with James out of the Eastern Conference, Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri traded for Kawhi Leonard, a move that ultimately dethroned the Warriors two days ago.

However, the Lakers' move comes at a unique time of peril for the Warriors. Entering free agency, their two top targets — Durant and Thompson — will be expected to sit out most, if not all, of the 2019-20 season with major rehabilitation timetables. Both players are expected to command maximum salary slots, so if both re-sign, the Warriors will enter next season with two top players on the bench and little cap space to use on improvements.

It's appropriate that the Lakers are the first team this summer to make a move toward championship consideration. For the last half-century, the franchise was everything the Warriors dynasty currently is. A healthy, star-driven franchise had the likes of George Mikan, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant donning its colors, helping the franchise win 15 titles.

However, since 2013, the Lakers haven’t reached the playoffs, building a reputation for more off-court drama than on-court wins. Two months ago, Johnson — the team's vice president of basketball operations — abruptly stepped down before the team's season finale, citing trust issues with general manager Rob Pelinka.

Now, with the addition of Davis, the Lakers could be back to contending for titles. With their cap space, they can bring at least one more near-max player on the roster.

[RELATED: Vegas makes Lakers favorites to win NBA title]

As for the Warriors, more questions linger. DeMarcus Cousins and Kevon Looney will be free agents, and the team must decide whether to extend a qualifying offer to second-year big man Jordan Bell. Worse, of the players with All-Star experience, only Curry and Green will be expected full participants when training camp opens in September.

Following Thursday's season-ending loss, Green said it wouldn't be smart to count out the Warriors, citing their championship pedigree. Time will tell whether his words will ring true, but as the Lakers proved Saturday, the rest of the league is coming for their crown.