The Warriors had it figured out. They had done the research, studied the numbers, evaluated their roster and came away with a plan for the summer of 2018.
They were going to get younger before they a chance to get old.
Then came an unexpected phone call from DeMarcus Cousins, a four-time All-Star rehabilitating a severe injury but wondering if the Warriors would be interested. He also told them, and this was significant, he was willing to sign at a steep discount.
What do the defending champs do? Do they thank Boogie for his interest and send him away? Do they risk their fabled chemistry by adding a player with a reputation for volatility? Do they go back for more research, study more numbers, reevaluate the roster and devise a new plan?
After consulting with team leaders Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala, the Warriors chose option No. 3.
Convinced this was an experiment too good to resist, they placed before Cousins a contract that would pay their midlevel exception, roughly $5.34 million. He signed it, becoming the fifth recent All-Star on the roster.
“He gives us something we haven’t had – a real inside presence,” coach Steve Kerr said. “He can go on the block and score or pass. He can shoot the 3, too, but we haven’t had someone who can create this much offense at the (center position).”
As they had after signing Durant two years earlier, the Warriors felt the wrath of many outside their orbit. They were blamed for unencumbered greed, for ruining the NBA for the second time in three seasons, for being so ambitious they were willing to risk their good thing.
One year later, the results were mixed. The experiment didn’t exactly fail because Cousins was not a destructive force and the Warriors returned to the NBA Finals. The experiment didn’t succeed, either, as they did not gallivant through the postseason on their way to a threepeat.
Cousins – who reportedly agreed Saturday to a one-year deal with the Lakers – missed the first half of the season, as expected, while rehabilitating from surgery to repair a ruptured left Achilles’ tendon. Once he was activated, he was by turns fabulous and mediocre.
Boogie’s most encouraging game was Game 2 of The Finals in Toronto, where he submitted 11 points, 10 rebounds. six assists and two blocks as the Warriors evened the series with a 109-104 victory. That he performed so well less than seven weeks after tearing his left quadriceps muscle was a testament to his desire. It also gave the Warriors, uncertain about Durant’s return, greater conviction that they could find a way to triumph.
Then came Games 3 and 4 in Oakland, where Cousins was dreadful, totaling 10 points (4-of-13 shooting from the field), seven rebounds, three assists, two blocks – and seven turnovers. The Warriors lost both games, falling into a pit from which they couldn’t escape.
Cousins didn’t lead the Warriors to a championship, nor was he expected to.
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Boogie also didn’t cost the Warriors a championship because he was never in that position. This team was not built to succeed or fail on his merits.
In a league where talent amounts to the first three rungs on the ladder to achievement, signing Cousins was a risk worth taking.
For the Warriors, going young is a lot easier to accept knowing that Durant is off to Brooklyn, that Klay Thompson will miss most of next season and that Boogie isn’t calling as a new toy willing to play on the cheap.