Trail Blazers-Kings Preview
By JEFF BARTL
(AP) -- The Sacramento Kings have been through this song and dance before with DeMarcus Cousins, whose behavioral problems and apologies for them are wearing thin the patience of coach Keith Smart.
Cousins' latest transgression has landed him an indefinite suspension, which he'll begin serving Sunday night when host Sacramento looks to end the Portland Trail Blazers' five-game winning streak.
This marks the third suspension this season for Cousins, who served two games for a hostile exchange with San Antonio broadcaster Sean Elliott on Nov. 9 and another game for hitting Dallas' O.J. Mayo in the groin Dec. 10.
He and Smart had a heated confrontation during halftime of Friday's 97-85 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, and Smart told Cousins to stay in the locker and not join the team for the second half.
Cousins is averaging team bests of 16.6 points and 9.5 rebounds, though Smart is willing to sacrifice Cousins' potential contributions in order to keep his 22-year-old big man in line.
"We're trying to set a standard here, and when guys move below that standard, things are going to take place," Smart said. "We'll just move on to the next game and I'll make some decisions from there."
Cousins acknowledged his mistake, but it's unclear when he'll be allowed to play.
"I was wrong," Cousins said. "Something was said, and I just should have stayed quiet. Is it a humbling thing? Yeah, I will say that. I mean, I messed up and I apologize to my teammates for responding the way I did and I'll move on from it."
Jimmer Fredette scored 16 points off the bench for the Kings (8-18), who have lost six of seven and have played the last three without Tyreke Evans as he nurses a sore left knee.
It's uncertain when Evans, who has been the subject of trade rumors, will be able to return.
Sacramento, though, has won three of the last four meetings with Portland, including a 99-80 victory Dec. 3 as Cousins finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds.
The Blazers, who won the first meeting 103-86 behind 22 points from rookie Damian Lillard, will look to avenge that defeat while winning their sixth straight game after beating Phoenix 96-93 on Saturday.
Lillard scored a game-high 25 points and LaMarcus Aldridge, who missed Thursday's win over Denver with a sprained left ankle, added 17 and nine rebounds.
J.J. Hickson, averaging 16.7 points and 14.1 rebounds during his seven-game double-double streak, finished with 19 points and 15 boards. Hickson has a double-double in his last three games versus the Kings.
Portland (13-12), which is holding opponents to an average of 88.8 points and 41.9 percent shooting during its winning streak, moved above .500 for the first time since the opening week of the season.
"It lets us know we're going in the right direction," Lillard said. "For us to be able to come from four games below .500 and be able to get on a winning streak and get it done, I think it says a lot about where we're headed.
"I think we're capable of being a playoff team as long as we keep doing what we're doing."
The Blazers are only 4-8 on the road while seven of the Kings' eight victories have come at home.
Updated December 23, 2012