The offseason is the only time of the year that the NBA’s bumbling franchises and their broken fans are legitimately allowed to imagine an impossible future, a future full of magical fantasies.
Perhaps a team drafts a young hero, or trades for some new weapons, or maybe even signs a potential savior. They covet an alternate universe, wherein the defending, reigning, world champion Golden State Warriors are overthrown and finally brought back to the dust.
A long dormant dynasty in Los Angeles is dreaming such a dream. The historically magnificent, yet recently garbage, L.A. Lakers roar from the bottom of the Pacific (divisional standings) with the signings of the cagey Rajon Rondo, the ornery Lance Stephenson, our very own JaVale McGee, and the King of Ohio, LeBron James.
My first thoughts were: “The King” is still alive? He survived the nuclear devastation the Warriors unleashed on his Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals? Wait, didn’t LaVar Ball prophesize this? And, how did James sign the contract after allegedly breaking his hand?
(Perhaps King James should also be known as The Magician, the way he keeps disappearing on his Cleveland fans.)
The move shook the entire NBA, as James is heralded as perhaps the greatest player of all time in some circles. For Laker fans, James’ arrival symbolized a desperately craved resurrection to relevance (the Lakers haven’t made the playoffs since 2013). When the signing was first announced, I curiously flicked the TV channel to CNN to watch live footage of Laker fans climbing out of their graves.
Then I remembered, the Lakers used to be KNOWN for dominating the summer headlines. Whether it was signing Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, or adding Karl Malone and Gary Payton, or Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant threatening to fight to the death, the Lakers know how to steal the headlines in July. The LeBron James Decision 3.0 was just another moment the Lakers went all Hollywood with the glitz and drama to win the summer madness.
Until, as my Warriors-fanatic buddy Dave (@DupartDavid) put it, Warriors owner Joe Lacob said, “Hold my beer.”
Free agent DeMarcus Cousins has agreed to a deal with the Golden State Warriors, league sources tell Yahoo.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) July 3, 2018
Yes, the Warriors acquired arguably the greatest big man in the league, and it was on the cheap. Although he is still several months away from recovering from a devastating Achilles’ injury, the Warriors potentially will have five current All-Stars in their lineup going into the 2019 playoffs.
In one fell swoop, the defending champions sucked the air out of the offseason excitement for the Lakers and the NBA.
Yet, as the smoke clears, I have to ask a question that many in Dub Nation ponder: Who is the real DeMarcus Cousins?
My original impression of the 6-foot-11, 270 pounds Cousins was probably similar to what many Warriors fans thought: a huge man, with a tantalizing little-man skill-set...and the emotional volatility of Dave Chapelle’s (NSFW) Rick James caricature.
That’s pretty much the Cousins described in the NBC Sports Washington piece from a couple of years ago describing “why Cousins isn’t worth the risk”:
Cousins, however, still hasn’t shown a shred of maturity after six years as a pro. There’s a reason as the best player on the Kings he has never led them to the playoffs (or more than 33 wins) despite playing for multiple coaches (Paul Westphal, Keith Smart, Mike Malone, Ty Corbin and George Karl). Supposedly, if he’d gotten a coach with a track record for winning and accomplishment in Karl, an NBA Coach of the Year winner, he’d behave. That didn’t happen. Instead of going into the 2015-16 season on a good note, he childishly chose to keep the tensions high.
A blowup happened Nov. 8 when Cousins cussed out Karl after a game. As Karl said, Cousins wasn’t liked by a lot of players in his own locker room. The best player on a team, especially one with All-Star caliber talent, sets the tone for that and should at least be able to lead his team to a winning record once in six years. His stats should translate to something beyond fantasy league basketball wins. That hasn’t happened with Cousins and in those six years there has been one constant in Sacramento.
So based on that inside report, one could be led to assume Cousins is unlikable, disrespectful, and completely immature.
At any rate, despite balling his way to an All-Star season last year after being traded to the New Orleans Pelicans, Cousins received very little market interest in the offseason. His severe injury combined with his poor reputation turned off other franchises from even making a strong inquiry into the man LeBron James once referred to as the NBA’s best big man as recently as 2017.
In a league frantic to pry Golden State’s unrelenting grip from the title, it was damning to Cousin’s legacy that no one sought him as a prize in the NBA’s arms race. It seemed as though the league was more than content to abandon Cousins. Everyone, that is, except for the Warriors.
Check out the Warriors stars and Bay Area hero Matt Barnes yukking it up with the alleged malcontent after a Kings game.
Now, here’s a Team USA moment with Klay Thompson ribbing Cousins about his catapult shooting form, with Cousins trolling Draymond Green’s suspect shooting.
And here’s another great Team USA clip of Cousins trying to convince Steph “Unanimous” Curry to allow the big fella to be the third Splash Brother.
Maybe Cousins just needs guys around him who he actually respects. And Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee reinforced that sneaking suspicion in his recent article about Cousins:
Some are skeptical about whether he’ll fit with the Warriors’ star-studded lineup. For a blueprint as to why he won’t be a problem, look at his time with Team USA. Cousins wasn’t the focal point, but because the team was winning, he fell in line and won a gold medal.
The Warriors are pretty much an Olympic or All-Star team, and the culture is similar to the one Cousins thrived in with the national squad.
Cousins can be moody, but he will be fair. I’ve been on the good and bad side with Cousins, but from Day One, I kept it real with him. Anyone who does that will get along fine with Cousins, even after disagreements.
Cousins can sniff out fake people pretty quickly. So if someone tries to run game on him, it won’t work.
Cousins cares what you think about him. Perhaps he cares to a fault. He won’t like it if someone who doesn’t know him judges his character or his past issues with coaches and teammates.
Cousins’ own comments from Vegas about why he signed with the Warriors suggest that he’s exactly the man described in the SacBee article.
DeMarcus Cousins on fitting into the Warriors lineup, watching his stats/shots go down: "I'm sure there will be many games where I may have just four attempts." pic.twitter.com/G3XWcw8m5p— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) July 7, 2018
The Warriors are the perfect environment for Cousins not just because he needs to rehab his image, but because he has a chance to be a part of something without having to be its biggest part. If he’s healthy, heavily motivated, and supported by the Golden Brotherhood, the sky is the limit. I mean, he wouldn’t be the first Olympian we’ve baptized in the Splash to serve as a Warrior for the Golden Empire, ain’t that right Andre Iguodala and KD?
If it doesn’t work out, we merely rented the big fella for a year for a discount and can go our separate ways cleanly. If it does work out... THIS IS THE MOST TALENTED TEAM IN THE HISTORY OF BASKETBALL.
I trust the Warriors to make it work.
Steve Kerr: "I know DeMarcus is known as an emotional player, but Draymond has been preparing me for this moment. We're good."— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) July 7, 2018
In the meantime, let’s keep the championship celebration rollin’ this summer, Dub Nation! Getcha Boogie on! Bada Bing Bada Boom!!
Bada Bing Bada Booom. Bada Bing Bada Boom!!!— Stephen Curry (@StephenCurry30) July 3, 2018