Free Agency

DeMarcus Cousins sets himself up for future success, payday by joining Warriors

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DeMarcus Cousins (Getty Images)

The Warriors on Monday added DeMarcus Cousins on a one-year, $5.3 million contract, collecting another NBA All-Star the way a hoarder collects yesterday's newspaper. There was a fair bit of frustration from fans hoping the Golden State dynasty would end in the near future, and the dominant big man will likely hear plenty of boos outside of Oakland.

But don't blame Cousins, who blew out his Achilles in January. Cousins is trying to rescue his career here, and he could not have picked a smarter way to do so than going to Golden State for a year.

Because of the injury, he might not be ready for training camp. He has insisted his goal was to play the opener, and that is still possible - when Kobe Bryant tore his Achilles tendon in April 2013, he returned the following December. If Cousins follows a similar timeline, he has a shot at the opener, or at least a November return.

But everyone heals at a different pace, and Cousins will want to be cautious. A return in January or even February - a full year of recovery - might make more sense for a guy who is only 27 and wants to play another eight-to-10 years.

That's where signing with the Warriors was such a shrewd move on Cousins' part. He will go to Golden State, which has one of the league's best training and medical staffs, and be able to patiently wait out his return. The Warriors won't need him in the early season. Heck, they don't need him at all, which means there's no pressure on his return.

When he does come back, the Warriors can offer something no other team could guarantee: Playing deep into May, and with a near-certain chance at going into mid-June.

That's critical for what Cousins is trying to do here. It's not so much that the Warriors need him to win again. It's that he needs the Warriors as a stage on which he can show he is healthy and put himself back into contention for a max contract in the summer of 2019, when he will return to free agency and find more teams with cap space available once there.

With the Warriors, if he returns in January, he will get six months of basketball to knock off the rust, then perform in the playoffs when the entire NBA world will be watching. That was the reason he was also considering the same contract offer from the Celtics, who are the favorites to go the Finals in the East. But the Warriors, he decided, are more of a sure thing. And he's likely to get a ring for his troubles.

If Cousins had re-signed with the Pelicans - the most likely outcome had he not made this bold move - he might have had six months total, including his recovery time. That's too much pressure.

New Orleans advanced to the second round of the playoffs this year, but, remember, the Pels earned a postseason spot in the final week, making the field over Denver with a cushion of only two games. They lost point guard Rajon Rondo to the Lakers on Monday, and could easily miss the postseason this year.

If Cousins had returned to New Orleans in January, it's possible he would have had only three months to prove his value as a free agent the following summer. That won't happen with the Warriors.

For Cousins, this move was genius. It is exactly what he needs to get himself back into mix among top free agents.

All signings will not be official until the end of the NBA moratorium period on July 6. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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