Mark Story

UK Sports Mailbag: Should NBA have blocked DeMarcus Cousins from signing with Warriors?

Former Kentucky center DeMarcus Cousins, left, shocked the basketball world Monday when the free agent signed a one-year contract with Golden State, winner of three of the past four NBA championships.
Former Kentucky center DeMarcus Cousins, left, shocked the basketball world Monday when the free agent signed a one-year contract with Golden State, winner of three of the past four NBA championships. Associated Press

We start this week's Kentucky Sports Mailbag with a fan wondering if the NBA, in the interest of parity, should have blocked the free-agent signing of ex-UK star DeMarcus Cousins with the Golden State Warriors — winners of three of the past four NBA titles:

Question one

Mark's reply: I do not think the NBA should have stopped Big Cuz from joining Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green in giving Golden State the potential for an all All-Star lineup.

For one thing, it's not apparent to me the NBA has the right to stop an unrestricted free-agent, as Cousins was, from signing with the team of his preference.

People point to 2011, when then-NBA commissioner David Stern vetoed a proposed three-way trade among New Orleans, Houston and Los Angeles that would have sent All-Star point guard Chris Paul to the Lakers.

What people forget, however, is that the NBA was acting as owner of the New Orleans franchise at that time, so it was not analogous to a free-agent signing.

I certainly understand why people are weary of the Warriors, but my belief in capitalism extends to sports. If Cousins was willing to play for Golden State on a relatively meager $5.3 million contract, that's a worker exercising his rights in the marketplace.

DeMarcus Cousins, right, will be reunited with Team USA teammates Draymond Green, left, and Kevin Durant in Golden State. Marcio Jose Sanchez Associated Press

Many have praised the savvy of Cousins, whose 2017-18 season was ended by a ruptured Achilles tendon, in signing a one-year pact with Golden State.

The rationale is the ex-UK center will be able to fully rehabilitate from his injury, show his value once he regains his health, pick up a championship ring with a loaded Golden State team then return to free agency next summer in a much stronger negotiating position.

That all makes sense, but there is also risk for Cousins in joining Golden State. If the Warriors, for any reason other than injury, do not win the 2018-19 NBA championship, the blame could easily fall on the new guy.

Question two

Mark's note: The uncertainty over who will be Kentucky football's top receiving option in 2018 prompted the next question:

Mark's reply: For all the uncertainty at quarterback at Kentucky, where there is no player on the Wildcats roster who has ever thrown a pass in an NCAA Division I game, the UK receiving corps is a major question, too.

There are four candidates from which Kentucky's go-to receiver in 2018 is likely to emerge:

Last year as a sophomore, Tavin Richardson came on strong down the stretch. The 6-foot-3, 207-pound product of Greer, S.C., made 11 of his 27 pass receptions in the final two games of the regular season plus the Music City Bowl.

Dorian Baker
Kentucky wide receiver Dorian Baker celebrated after catching a touchdown pass in UK's 41-38 upset of No. 11 Louisville in the 2016 regular-season finale. Baker, a redshirt senior, missed all of last season due to injury. Jonathan Palmer

Dorian Baker, Kentucky's leading receiver (55 catches) in 2015, will be back in 2018 after missing all of 2017 and a good bit of 2016 due to injuries. The 6-3, 205-pound senior has had some vexing drops during his UK career, but he has also made his share of game-altering catches (see right corner of the end zone, Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, 2016).

Lynn Bowden
With his true freshman season under his belt, Kentucky slot receiver Lynn Bowden could be poised for a breakout year in 2018. Alex Slitz

As a true freshman in 2017, Lynn Bowden caught 17 passes for 210 yards. Given that the 6-1, 195-pound slot receiver was 1.) a quarterback in high school; 2.) missed all of UK's summer program last year while waiting to be cleared for eligibility by the NCAA, I would expect to see his production as a wide-out take a big step up this season.

Though he will not be in the wide receivers room, do not forget senior tight end C.J. Conrad in the discussion of who might be Kentucky's No. 1 receiving threat in 2018.

Kentucky tights end coach Vince Marrow and C.J. Conrad say the junior tight end needs to get back to his level of play earlier this season.

In his UK career, the 6-5, 242-pound product of LaGrange, Ohio, has always felt like an underutilized weapon. He has never caught more than 19 passes in a season (2016).

It will be fascinating to see if the UK offensive brain trust of Eddie Gran and Darin Hinshaw can figure out ways to make Conrad a more consistent part of the Kentucky attack in his senior year.

Question Three

Mark's note: The announcement Tuesday that Kentucky had hired Purdue's Lonnie Greene to succeed the departed Edrick Floreal as Wildcats head track and field and cross country coach prompted the following question about what impact the change will have on UK's recent ascension to national track and field power:

Mark's reply: While I have always enjoyed track and field, I am by no means plugged into that world to such an extent that I can evaluate coaches from outside Kentucky.

Lonnie Greene, who led Purdue to historic success the past six seasons, was named the new track and field and cross country coach at Kentucky on Tuesday.

However, a reason for UK backers to feel good about Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart's hire is the assessment of the Indiana sports media of how good a job Lonnie Greene did at Purdue.

All of that sounds an awful lot like what we in the Kentucky Sports Media said about Floreal when he left UK for Texas.

Mark Story: 859-231-3230; Twitter: @markcstory

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