DeMarcus Cousins is wrong when he says the Golden State Warriors are the most hated team in America, but he might be about to make a personal intervention to help bring his claim closer to reality.
There are a handful of franchises across sports in the United States that generate far more ire than the Warriors, despite Cousins launching the following hot take in an interview ahead of his return from injury and official debut for Golden State on Friday.
“We’re the most hated team in sports,” Cousins told ESPN. “I would say the Warriors are for sure. You know they hate Kevin (Durant). They hate me. Actually, they may hate (Steph Curry) as well. They hate Draymond Green. But, I mean, it is what it is.”
The Warriors have won three championships in four years and would be perfect during that span if not for The Block, The Shot and the combined forces of LeBron James and Kyrie Irving leading Cleveland to a comeback win from 3-1 down in 2016.
Such a run, plus Durant’s decision to join his former enemies in free agency and essentially make Golden State unstoppable, has created some jealous resentment. But if there is bile spewed towards the Warriors it is because they are not only winning, but doing so at a frightening clip, while disrupting the entire way the sport of basketball is played with their preposterous shooting ability.
There is no deep-rooted, generationally entrenched loathing of the team, though, no decades-long bitterness of the sort felt towards the New York Yankees or the Dallas Cowboys. The Boston Red Sox find plenty of hate headed their direction, too, and the Patriots won’t get much love outside of New England if they add another ring to Tom Brady’s collection in a few Sundays’ time.
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However, the next time the Celtics or Lakers do something of note, the Warriors won’t even be the most hated team in the NBA. Now trust me on this next bit, because it sure doesn’t feel like it right now, but there will come a day when the Warriors will fail again.
When it does, the level of collective glee will be real, but it will pale in insignificance compared to the reaction if LeBron, armed with a suitable superstar teammate, falters at the finishing line in next year’s playoffs, or the year after’s.
For the Warriors are actually pretty likeable, if only they didn’t win so darn much.
But maybe that can change, at least a little bit. And maybe Boogie Cousins is the man to shift it, by taking a team that already had an embarrassing surplus of talent and stretching its unfair advantage as far as it will go.
Cousins, who tore his left Achilles tendon on Jan. 26 last year and spent the intervening months getting healthy, signed a one-year deal worth $5.3 million in the Bay Area. He says he’s nervous ahead of his first game. Nervous? Sheesh, how must the rest of the NBA feel?
“We are in a great spot,” Curry said on Wednesday. “We have got a nice winning streak and we get DeMarcus back on Friday. These last 30-whatever games will be really exciting for us to get to be that kind of team that we want to be come playoff time.”
The early part of the season saw some inconsistency and even a playground-style spat between Durant and Green. Yet now the Warriors are clearly at the top of the Western Conference, having gotten there by overhauling the impressive Denver Nuggets and ramming home the point with a dominant road win in Colorado on Tuesday.
Against the New Orleans Pelicans the following night, the Warriors quietly racked up another record, with the 43 combined three-pointers in the game (N.O. had 19 of them) setting a new NBA benchmark.
As things stand there are precisely zero scenarios where a healthy Warriors wouldn’t be an overwhelming favorite against any postseason opponent, even if James Harden continues to produce points like he’s stuck on video game cheat mode.
On top of all that, now Golden State gets to add a 28-year-old four-time All-Star and Olympic gold medalist, who is flushed with confidence that the layoff will see him return stronger than ever.
“I’m back and I’m not looking back,” Cousins said. “I’m moving forward. I’m leaving it on the floor every night. And I plan on coming back for that top spot.”
“Obviously I won’t be the same player,” he continued. “I have gotten better.”
If he is right, then the season is done, playoffs and all. You might as well hand over the trophy now, because probably no one was stopping the Warriors before and they sure as heck won’t if Cousins delivers something approaching the peak of his capacities.
As captivating as the Warriors can be to watch, which is part of why they have avoided mass antipathy, collecting a fifth superstar and having the luxury of being able to stash him in the rehab room until January, will cut deep with fans of rival teams who would love to have one such player on their team.
It still wouldn’t make the Warriors the most hated team in sports, but it would get a whole lot more neutrals rooting for them to lose. A trade off that the defending champs, and especially their shiny new accessory — an opinionated, elite center — would happily accept.