Under the Microscope, DeMarcus Cousins Fueled by Doubt With Warriors

To the segment of Warriors fans that have not spent the past five days floating in fantasy, DeMarcus Cousins sat down Friday night and spoke for about five minutes, much of that time trying to assuage your apprehension.

Cousins realizes you're out there, and he wants you to know he's not coming to the Bay Area to defile the oasis the Warriors have spent seven years creating.

"I'm coming in just playing my part," he said during a news conference at Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. "I'll do whatever it takes to help this team win. Of course, I'm in a position where I'm able to play for a championship. Every NBA player's goal is to win a championship, so I'm coming in and I'll do whatever it takes."

Until the night he trashes this well-intentioned script, believe him.

Here's why: Cousins has something to prove, and it's mostly unrelated to talent.

We all know he can play. His pure offensive skills, particularly his scoring, are as rich as any center in the NBA since prime Hakeem Olajuwon a quarter century ago. Though Cousins will be coming off surgery after rupturing his left Achilles tendon, his attitude is under a bigger microscope than his heel.

When he returns, which may not happen before 2019, Cousins is better off devoting his emotional energy to proving he can be a welcome element to team chemistry.

Can he assimilate well enough to thrive as a member of the Warriors, a team that has crafted conditions widely recognized as being as optimal as any in sports?

Cousins, you see, was stung by the lack of interest on the open market. He admits to being nervous when his phone wasn't ringing. The many teams that could use him but turned their backs may have done so partly out of distrust with his recovery but definitely weren't up to the challenge presented by his temperament. Or both.

The memo to Cousins, who surely aims for a megadeal next summer, was that he had better heal up well and fit in even better. He seems to have read every word.

"Any doubt coming my way from anybody, I use it as fuel," he said. "No matter if it's basketball or just life in general.

"I've always come up being a kid, I've never accepted "No" or somebody telling me something that I can't do," he added. "I've always wanted to be that person to prove them wrong. It's a gift and a curse. I'm very stubborn. A lot of you will learn that. But my heart's always in the right place."

The psychological location of his heart is irrelevant. Cousins is past the "Hey, but I had good intentions" stage of his career. Even if he is consistently cordial to each of his teammates, he can't shed his old skin if he is barking at reporters or straight-arming the media-relations staff.

There are great players with stained images in every sport. They tend to move from team to team, each new start an opportunity to reshape perceptions. That's where Cousins, who turns 28 on Aug. 13, currently stands.

This is his second "new start," and he needs to be the most ambitious player on the Warriors, who have welcomed him into their nest.

"The potential is scary; that's obvious," Cousins said. "But, of course, it's going to take a lot of hard work. A lot of hard work and dedication and also a lot of sacrifice from not only myself but from other guys on the team as well.

"That's something we're all aware of. That's something we've accepted already and that's why these guys wanted me to also be a part of this team."

The Warriors would like Cousins to produce, particularly in the postseason. They need him to do so without tantrums. Some folks are convinced he can. Others won't believe it until they see it.

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