Nick FriedellESPN Staff WriterClose
- Nick Friedell is the Chicago Bulls beat reporter for ESPN Chicago. Friedell is a graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and joined ESPNChicago.com for its launch in April 2009.
In a sit-down interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols, Cousins said he hasn’t focused on the reaction from fans since he signed as a free agent with the Warriors this past summer.
“I don’t really pay attention to storylines,” Cousins told ESPN. “I mean, they’re gonna say what they have to say. They’re gonna add their opinions. We’re the most hated team in sports.”
Cousins, who is set to return Friday at the LA Clippers after missing almost a year because of a left Achilles tendon tear, signed a one-year, $5.3 million deal with Golden State in hopes that a rehabbing season with the reigning two-time NBA champions would help him find the massive payday he was seeking before the injury. When Cousins signed, it set off an avalanche of criticism from fans who thought his presence on a Warriors team that already had four All-Stars was unfair to the rest of the league.
Now, neither Cousins nor his teammates care about what the reaction will be when he returns.
When asked by Nichols if he really believes the Warriors are the most hated team in sports, Cousins didn’t back off his original point.
“Can you name another?” he said.
When Nichols answered with the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Yankees, Cousins responded by saying, with a laugh, “Well, put us up there. I would say the Warriors are for sure. You know they hate Kevin [Durant]. They hate me. I think the only guy they really like is Stephen [Curry]. Actually, they may hate him, as well. They hate Draymond Green. But I mean, it is what it is. I can’t worry about that.”
What Cousins is worried about is making an impact on a team counting on him to produce at center. Warriors players and coaches aren’t sure exactly what Cousins will be able to offer after almost a year of rehab, but they’re hopeful he will provide a dynamic low-post presence they haven’t had on the roster before.
“When he’s focused, when he’s doing the little things, he’s the best big man in the game,” Warriors All-Star swingman Klay Thompson said. “I can’t wait ’til we get him; he adds a whole new dimension to our team. He gives us a low-block presence we haven’t had in a while; and we can throw it to him at any point to get hot. And with the floor spacing our team creates, he’s gonna be a monster.”
As he fought through the arduous recovery process, Cousins said one person he leaned on most for advice was Basketball Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins, who tore his right Achilles in 1992.
“He just basically tells me to attack it,” Cousins said. “Once you realize you are healed, like, don’t think about it. Just go forward.
“One thing that Dominique also spoke on is — they don’t know your heart, and they don’t know your drive. So, you know, the people that do know me, they know I can be very stubborn. I don’t like to be proved wrong.”
Cousins is confident he’ll able to return to his All-Star form over time.
“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.”