OAKLAND — Initially, Warriors coach Steve Kerr made the move sound like a fore-gone conclusion.
The Warriors had signed DeMarcus Cousins to a surprisingly low $5.3 million with their taxpayer mid-level exception because of the league-wide concern about his surgically repaired left Achilles tendon. As far as re-signing him this summer, though? Kerr did not see how that would work.
“We made no bones about it when we signed him. “This is a one-year deal and we’re not going to have money to sign him next year,” Kerr said in November. “So we’d like to help him win a championship and sign a great contract somewhere else. That’s the reality.”
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Kerr’s skepticism had nothing to do with Cousins’ fit, his attitude or how he would recover from his left Achilles tendon injury. Per rules of the salary cap, the Warriors can only offer Cousins about a 20 percent raise which would be around a $6.3 million deal. Still, some of things have changed to soften Kerr’s stance. Even if they re-sign Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson this summer, they will miss a significant chunk of next season. Durant ruptured his right Achilles tendon against Toronto in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. Thompson tore an ACL in his knee in Game 6. The market value remains unclear on Cousins given he also missed 14 post-season games because of a torn left quad and showed mixed results with fitting in with the Warriors.
“I think there’s a chance,” Kerr said. “I would say the hope is that frankly he can do a lot better financially than what we can offer him. But who knows. Every year is different.”
After all, who could have predicted Cousins being available last summer? Despite his mixed progress in his conditioning and adjusting to the Warriors’ pace, they had praised him for how he mostly accepted his role with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green. They liked how he mentored the team’s young players. And he even calmed Green down during his argument with Durant. Cousins still averaged 16.3 points on 48 percent shooting, 8.2 rebounds and 3.6 assists, numbers that are a little below his combined career averages with Sacramento (2010-2017) and New Orleans (2017-18) in points (21.2) and rebounds (10.9).
“This summer is going to be a wild free agent market and we have to figure out oiur own situation particularly with Klay and Kevin and how all of that shakes out,” Kerr said. “I can absolutely foresee a place for DeMarcus here, if he wanted to come bac. It’s a question of what are his goals and what’s out there for him.”
Cousins expressed openness about staying with the Warriors following the Game 6 loss. It remains to be seen if Cousins would accept such a possible paycut. It appears likely he will wait on what the free-agency market says first.
That explains why Warriors general manager Bob Myers sounded uncertain. He admittedly feels fatigued from the season and is trying to prepare for the NBA Draft next Thursday.
“I don’t know,” Myers said. “I’d love to answer every free agency question. The truth is I’ve had to think about it for, I thought about it for 10 minutes ago because we’ve been doing exit interviews for a lot of our players. I don’t even know if you were sitting with me privately, I cant answer some of this stuff because Klay Thompson tore his ACL 12 hours ago. As human beings, you have to process this stuff. We will.”
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