Grant Cohn: Warriors didn't ruin NBA with DeMarcus Cousins signing

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The Warriors didn’t ruin the NBA by signing DeMarcus Cousins. Don’t complain. The move is good for the league.

It won’t make the NBA boring or uncompetitive. The Warriors were the favorites to win the NBA championship before they signed Cousins, and remain the favorites now. Cousins changes almost nothing.

It’s not like they got Wilt Chamberlain, or even the real Cousins, who averaged 25.2 points and 12.9 rebounds last season. They got Injured Cousins. He ruptured his left Achilles on Jan. 27 and probably won’t return until next January at the earliest.

The Warriors are the first team in NBA history with three players who averaged at least 25 points last season. Those players are Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Cousins. But, Cousins may not be a 25-points-per-game scorer when he returns. He could be an eight-points-per-game scorer. He’s a mystery.

Cousins received zero offers from other teams during free agency. He scared them away. Made it clear he wanted a one-year contract, so he can re-enter the market next year after rehabbing and hopefully proving he still is good.

No one wanted to give Cousins the opportunity to prove himself next season. No one wanted to pay him so he could rehab, play a little bit, then sign somewhere else in 2019. No one except the Warriors, who gave him a one-year deal worth $5.3 million.

The Warriors did Cousins a favor. If they hadn’t signed him, he might not be in the league right now. He might have to take the season off. He should thank them. And so should his next team.

Cousins almost certainly will play for another team in 2019. He is not a long-term investment for the Warriors. He’s a charity case.

The Warriors are more than $39 million over the salary cap. To re-sign Cousins, they would have to clear roughly $60 million in payroll by trading Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green for contracts that expire next year, and letting Klay Thompson leave during free agency in 2019.
The Warriors would have to gut the team.

Or, they could keep the team together and offer Cousins the Non-Qualifying Veteran Free Agent Exception, which would allow the Warriors to sign him while they’re over the cap.

This exception amounts to a 120 percent raise. Cousins’ next deal with the Warriors would start at $6.4 million per season, and that would be way too low. He will want big bucks if he’s healthy. And he will sign somewhere else.

The Warriors are OK with that. If Cousins helps them win just one game next season, that would be enough. They don’t need him. He merely is another body on the roster. They’ll take him now that he’s cheap. And they’ll rehabilitate his Achilles, plus his reputation in the league.

Cousins has a bad reputation. He is known as a me-first player, someone who cares only about scoring. And he’s known as a bad teammate. Known as a problem in the locker room. The antithesis of everything the Warriors stand for. They will help change that perception.

Assistant coach Ron Adams will introduce Cousins to defense. Cousins has never played it.

Then, the Warriors will introduce him to the playoffs. Cousins has never been.

Finally, they’ll introduce him to winning in the playoffs. They’ll show him what it takes, even if he doesn’t get to play. He won’t need to. He just has to heal his Achilles, be quiet and fit into the Warriors' championship culture. Then, teams will want him next summer.

Here’s how he can help the Warriors while he’s with them.

In January or February, whenever Cousins is healthy, some of the other Warriors All-Stars might be injured. They all got injured last year — they were worn down. They’ve played more basketball than any other NBA team the past four seasons. And they’re bored with the regular season.

As boredom sets in again and injuries add up, Cousins will come back.

At first, the Warriors will restrict how many minutes he plays. But eventually, he could carry the scoring load in February or March if Kevin Durant or Stephen Curry needs rest or gets hurt.

The Warriors stars will pace themselves for the playoffs. Cousins won’t. If he’s healthy, he will play as hard as he can for his next contract. He will make the regular season exciting again.

That would be good for the league.

In the playoffs, Cousins might not play at all. His defense could be a liability. In that case, the Warriors can bench him, just like they benched Zaza Pachulia in the playoffs last season after he started 57 games during the regular season. No problem. They could still win the NBA championship.

Or, Cousins might play exceptionally well in the playoffs, and the Warriors might cruise to their fourth championship in five seasons.

That would be good for the league, too.

Marquee teams are good for sports. The Chicago Bulls were good for the NBA in the '90s, and the Warriors are good for the NBA now.

Teams are supposed to compete. The Warriors compete the best. Let other teams compete better. Then, they can complain when the Warriors sign an All-Star for $5.3 million.

There’s nothing wrong with being excellent.

Grant Cohn covers Bay Area sports for The Santa Rosa Press Democrat and You can reach him at

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