Getty Images

DeMarcus Cousins in unusual position as he enters first, likely last, season with Warriors

3 Comments

Warriors coach Steve Kerr said not to compare his team to the 1997-98 “last dance” Bulls – and he’s right.

Stephen Curry and Draymond Green are locked up beyond next season. Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and DeMarcus Cousins can become free agents, and though Durant is a wildcard, Thompson has been consistent in his plan to return to Golden State.

In 1997, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman and Chicago coach Phil Jackson were on expiring contracts. Before the season, Bulls general manager Jerry Krause said, “Beyond this contract, Phil agrees it’s better we part company. At the end of next season, there will be a new coach here.” And Jordan  had already said, “Phil should be the head coach, and I shouldn’t have to make the decision to play for another coach other than Phil. Simple as that. Sad as it may be, I will not choose to play for another coach.” So, you do the math.

But that was maybe the last time a star entered a season as likely to leave his team afterward as Cousins with the Warriors.

At least if Cousins is still a star.

Cousins is recovering from a torn Achilles suffered last January. It’s far from certain how the 6-foot-11, 270-pound 28-year-old will play once he gets back on the court. This is a serious enough setback to at least consider Cousins is done as a star.

But if all goes well, his immense talent will shine again. He’ll help the Warriors win their third straight championship and fourth in five years. Along the way, he’ll pick up good habits as he adjusts to Golden State’s system.

And he’ll almost certainly leave in free agency next summer.

The highest starting salary the Warriors can give Cousins next year is $6,404,400 unless they clear more cap space. After a successful season, Cousins should command far more in free agency.

If this season doesn’t go to plan, it’s hard to see Golden State welcoming back Cousins. The Warriors were elite without him and probably wouldn’t hesitate to move on if this experiment fails.

So, either way, he appears to be a one-year rental.

How will it go?

Will Cousins put aside individual concerns, knowing this will be the only year he’ll be in this position? Or will he feel the need to prove himself in the short time before free agency?

Will the Warriors have time to fully welcome him into their culture? Will they care if he fully acclimates, considering it seems he’s just passing through anyway?

If Cousins flourishes with Golden State, will other teams improve offers to Cousins in free agency? Or will they just assign his success to the Warriors’ culture and continue to fret about his leg and attitude?

There is a remote possibility he stays in Golden State beyond this season. Maybe he signs a one-year contract to establish Early Bird Rights, which would allow the Warriors to pay him up to $11,207,700 in 2020, though he could get that much only by signing for at least two years at that point. He could even work toward spending three years with Golden State, which would give him Full Bird Rights and the ability to re-sign for up to the max. Or maybe Durant leaves in free agency next summer, and Thompson is willing to take a massive discount. Then maybe the Warriors could carve out enough cap space to re-sign Cousins to a larger contract.

But that all seems farfetched.

Cousins isn’t entering the ring-chasing phase of his career. He has gotten one big contract, but he signed that before the new national TV contracts lifted player salaries into the stratosphere. It’s hard to see him not caring about getting one monster deal. His season will be building toward that goal.

It’ll also be about the Warriors pursuing another championship, of course. A lot of forces are coinciding in Golden State in a short time, which leads to mounting pressure.

That drove the 1997-98 Bulls to greatness. They won a third straight title before Jordan (retirement), Pippen (Rockets), Rodman (Lakers) and Jackson (retirement) all moved on.

The final-song sentiment isn’t as wide with the Warriors, but it will be worth watching Cousins in his one-man “last dance.”

Unstoppable Meyers Leonard drops 25 on Warriors in first half (VIDEO)

Leave a comment

Stephen Curry had an I-don’t-want-to-play-Game-5 kind of first half for Golden State, scoring 25 points and hitting 5-of-7 from three.

However, he was the second best player on the court because Meyers Leonard held that crown.

Yes, Meyers Leonard.

He had 25 points of his own on 10-of-12 shooting.

Fans broke out a “Mey-ers Leon-ard” chant.

All that had Portland up 69-65 at the half in a defense-optional Game 4 where it is win-or-go-home for the Trail Blazers.

Knicks Frank Ntilikina reportedly wants to be traded, switches agents

Getty Images
Leave a comment

When the Knicks acquired Emmanuel Mudiay last season — a player Denver just released outright — Mudiay instantly jumped past Frank Ntilikina on the point guard depth chart. Then, when the Knicks traded for Dennis Smith Jr. at the deadline (part of the Kristaps Porzingis deal), the future of Ntilikina in New York was thrown into uncertainty.

Ntilikina sees that, wants out, and is getting a new agent as well, reports Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News.

Knicks guard Frank Ntilikina dropped CAA as his agency last season and planned to sign with French agent Bouna Ndiaye, the Daily News has learned.

Ntilikina, who was drafted eighth overall by Knicks in 2017, is on the trading block and desires a relocation, a source told the News. The Knicks declined offers to move Ntilikina at the trade deadline in February, acquired another point guard in Dennis Smith Jr., and Ntilikina quickly decided to change agents.

Ndiaye represents several French players in the NBA, including Rudy Gobert and Evan Fournier.

The Knicks are expected to try to trade Ntilikina, either at the draft or next summer. Mostly other teams will view him as a way to save money — if teams do not pick up his 2020-21 option by Oct. 31 he comes off the books after this next season — but also Ntilikina played good defense and other teams may try to take a flier on him.

Andre Iguodala out for Game 4 against Portland with sore calf

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Andre Iguodala was limited in Game 3 in Portland, playing just 18 minutes Saturday night, none after he was taken out with 7:49 left in the third quarter. An MRI on his left calf Sunday came back clean, but he was questionable with leg tightness, officially. Call it a sore calf if you prefer.

Up 3-0 in the series, there was no reason to risk something worse in Game 4, so Iguodala is out, coach Steve Kerr announced pregame.

Alfonzo McKinnie will start in place of Iguodala.

Iguodala joins Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins on the Warriors bench for Game 4.

If there is a Game 5, it will be Wednesday night in the Bay Area.

With the NBA Finals not starting until May 30 — a week from this Thursday — the Warriors have plenty of time to rest and get their starters healed before taking on a serious challenger from the East (whether that is Milwaukee or Toronto). The Warriors have used their depth against Portland to help keep minutes down for their starters and Kerr will lean on that bench to close out the series in the next couple of games.

Report: Rockets, Mike D’Antoni talking contract extension

Associated Press
Leave a comment

Mike D’Antoni, the father of the seven seconds or less system that started a revolution of NBA style, has changed in recent years. In Houston, with James Harden at his peak and this specific roster around him, D’Antoni now coaches an isolation-heavy team that has pushed the NBA envelope in other ways, particularly in trusting the three ball.

D’Antoni fits with Daryl Morey, and the sides have started talking contract extension, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

The Houston Rockets and coach Mike D’Antoni have had preliminary discussions about the framework of a contract extension that would keep the two-time NBA Coach of the Year from entering the final year of his deal…

“I’ve let [general manager] Daryl [Morey] and [team owner] Tilman [Fertitta] know that I’m energized to keep coaching — and believe that I can continue to do this at a high level for at least another three years,” D’Antoni, 68, told ESPN on Sunday night.

“I want to be a part of a championship here.”

This is the smart move, he is a part of what has made the Rockets such a success in recent years.

The Rockets should look for roster upgrades this summer but they should not be blowing things up. The Rockets were the second best team in the NBA last season and may have been again by the playoffs this season (it depends on where you want to put Milwaukee and Toronto in that ranking, but the Rockets were in the mix). Houston’s problem has been a historic dynasty in Golden State, but that could look very different next season. If the Warriors take a step or two back, for whatever reasons, Houston is poised to pounce. They will be contenders.

D’Antoni is a part of that, and the Rockets need to keep one of the best coaches in the game in house.