SACRAMENTO -- The signing of Kevin Durant two summers ago was a mild surprise. The signing of JaVale McGee two months after Durant was more of a surprise. The signing of Nick Young last summer was a puzzler.
The Warriors on Monday exponentially outdid all three of those moves combined.
They reached an agreement with free-agent center DeMarcus Cousins.
Boogie Cousins, formerly of the Sacramento Kings and New Orleans Pelicans, the All-Star that has appeared in zero playoff games in an eight-year career, is partnering with the back-to-back NBA champions.
This pushes LeBron James and the manic agitation involving the Lakers completely off the front page.
Boogie to the Warriors makes sense on so many levels.
It makes zero sense on least as many levels.
The news, first reported by Yahoo Sports, sent shock waves through the NBA. Cousins, who averaged about $15 million in salary over the past three seasons, was thought to be seeking a contract worth much more than the $5.34 million taxpayer mid-level exception available to the Warriors. Most speculation had him headed to the Lakers, where he would join LeBron James in reviving that franchise. Cousins is recovering from an Achilles tendon rupture that could sideline him for the first several months of the regular season.
Cousins typically plays with measured deliberation, mostly in first and second gear, a style of play unlikely to change in the wake of such a serious injury. He’s a throwback center, a fading breed, walking over to a team that much prefers to run.
They are the Warriors and they have cultivated an image of welcoming wholesomeness around the firebrand ways of Draymond Green.
And he is Boogie, as emotionally volatile as any player in the NBA, a man whose fits of belligerence have gone so far as to land upon members of the media.
This move is, for the Warriors, like inviting a bear into the mansion.
But, maybe, this bear is ready to behave. Perhaps the most offensively talented, defensively challenged center in the league, maybe Cousins, who turns 28 in August, sees this is an opportunity to rehabilitate an image that, with his assistance, has been grotesquely distorted.
Cousins couldn’t get within 80 miles of the Warriors unless CEO Joe Lacob was ready to add to his collection of talent, president/general manager Bob Myers was willing bet on his judgment and coach Steve Kerr had appropriate trust in his staff and culture.
Moreover, Cousins wouldn’t be coming to the Warriors unless the All-Stars were rolling out a welcome mat. Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson were Team USA teammates with Cousins in the 2016 Olympics. Durant on Saturday night agreed to a money-saving deal that fairly prodded the Warriors to spend their midlevel exception. Stephen Curry, the leader and moderating centerpiece of the Warriors, tweeted his approval within an hour of the news.
The Warriors needed a veteran center and no one on the market brings more gifts than Cousins. He can get a bucket on the block, shoot the three and whistle a pass through a donut without leaving a crumb.
The Warriors under Lacob always have been willing to bet, first on their grand aspirations and now on their healthy, cutting-edge environment. This, though, is their riskiest move yet, a one-year experiment on a player whose past has more red flags than a dead con man’s rap sheet.
If it works, the Warriors have five All-Stars, blast through the 60-win barrier and approach 70. They match if not exceed their 16-1 postseason of 2017. Boogie sails through image rehab and gets a ring.
If it doesn’t work, no one will have to look too far to see why.