OAKLAND, Calif. — DeMarcus Cousins sat at his locker inside Oracle Arena after the Golden State Warriors lost the 2019 NBA Finals and contemplated his uncertain future. While the four-time All-Star enjoyed his lone season with the Warriors, getting paid this summer will likely mean finding a new team.
“I don’t know. I’m open-minded. We will see what happens,” Cousins told The Undefeated about the possibility of returning to Golden State.
With NBA free agency set to begin on June 30, there is plenty of buzz surrounding Warriors All-Stars Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson. The expectation is that both will field max offers, but what will happen with their teammate is anybody’s guess. Just like it was a year ago.
At the start of the 2017-18 season, Cousins was entering a contract year with the New Orleans Pelicans. He started the season on a tear, averaging 25.2 points, 12.9 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game for the first three months of the season. He inserted his name into the MVP conversation and earned his fourth straight All-Star nod. He was well on his way to a big payday in the summer of 2018.
But those dreams came crashing down when Cousins ruptured his Achilles tendon while playing for the Pelicans on Jan. 26, 2018. In a matter of months, the big man went from expecting a maximum contract of well over $100 million to not receiving a significant offer at the start of free agency on July 1. Cousins, who was still recovering from his injury, ultimately signed a one-year, $5.3 million deal with the Warriors.
Cousins returned to the court in January. He averaged 16.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.3 steals in 30 regular-season games for the Warriors after returning from his Achilles injury. But then the Mobile, Alabama, native suffered a partially torn quadriceps in the first round of the playoffs, causing him to miss 14 postseason games before returning for the NBA Finals, during which he was nowhere near 100 percent.
“We’re fighters, bro,” Cousins said. “We had a team full of fighters. We had a lot of ups and downs through this postseason. Everything happens for a reason.”
Durant and Thompson, of course, suffered major injuries during the Finals. Still, their injuries will not affect their value in free agency.
As for Cousins, it remains to be seen how teams will view his recent injuries.
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Cousins, who turns 29 in August, plans to work on his game and conditioning this offseason in Las Vegas without any restraint from injury. Cousins and his camp believe the two-time All-NBA second-team selection will be completely healthy when training camp arrives.
“I’m getting my game right. Getting my game back. Being myself. Getting in better shape. Getting my legs underneath me,” Cousins said. “It’s going to be good offseason for me. I’m excited about that. I look forward to go to training camp and all of that.”
Seven NBA teams have expressed interest of varying levels in Cousins, according to a source. The New York Knicks have serious interest in Cousins, a source said. The Los Angeles Clippers are also intrigued, a source said. Both teams have significant cap space.
Meanwhile, soon-to-be Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis told The Undefeated last season that he would like to play with his old Pelicans teammate again.
The Warriors are monitoring Cousins’ situation as well. But the best they could offer Cousins, using his Non-Bird rights, is a one-year deal worth $6.4 million.
“I think there’s a chance,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr said. “I would say the hope is frankly that he can do a lot better financially than what we could offer him. But who knows? Every year is different. There are a lot more teams with cap room this summer than last summer. This summer’s going to be a wild free-agent market, and we have to figure out our own situation, particularly with Klay and Kevin and how all that shakes out.
“But I could absolutely foresee a place for DeMarcus here if he wanted to come back. It’s just a question of what are his goals? What’s out there for him?”
After Cousins endured a painful free agency a year ago, expect him to be ready for anything. And if Cousins regains his health and elite game, he could be a major steal and one of the feel-good stories of next season.
“We will see where the wind blows,” Cousins said.