A bizarre sequence unfolded in the Sacramento Kings’ 126-120 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday night when DeMarcus Cousins was ejected and then let back into the game.
With 35 seconds left in the fourth quarter, game tied at 119, Cousins scored on a layup underneath the basket and got fouled, for his 54th point of the game.
As he celebrated while walking to the free throw line, he taunted the Blazers bench, spitting out his mouthguard in the process and walking away.
The Blazers bench immediately pointed out Cousins’ act, and the referees gave him a technical foul, his second of the night, and ejected him. Cousins was incredulous, sprinting off the court in disbelief.
However, the officials then huddled and changed the call, rescinding the technical. That meant Cousins had to run back out and shoot his free throw.
Cousins made the free throw for his 55th point of the game, and the Kings later sealed the win.
In a postgame interview on the court immediately after the final buzzer, Cousins blasted the officials.
“It’s ridiculous. It’s obvious what’s being done out here. It’s a nightly basis. I hope the world can see now what’s really going on out here, because it’s getting ridiculous. It’s really ridiculous. … This is ridiculous, man. Ridiculous!”
Cousins was then asked about his dominant performance, and seemingly took a shot at Blazers forward Meyers Leonard (who many people thought Cousins was trash-talking, prior to spitting out his mouthguard). “He thinks he’s a stopper,” Cousins said. “It’s not happening. I brought him back to reality.”
After the game, Blazers coach Terry Stotts said that right after the ejection, the referees asked him if Cousins threw his mouthguard at the Blazers bench. Stotts said Cousins didn’t, and the referees rescinded the technical. “Whether it was intentionally spitting it out or not, I don’t know the intention,” Stotts said.
Asked again after the game about the mouthguard, Cousins said, “I can see why people could be mad. I was just talking to the bench and it came out. No intent. I would never spit on anybody. I’m not like that.”
Leonard wasn’t pleased with Cousins after the game: “He deserved to be out of the game for what he did. His antics are over the top, he’s disrespectful, out of line, I mean, the list of words can go on.”
The incident surely won’t dim the lights that have been on Cousins recently. Over the weekend, video surfaced of Cousins berating a Sacramento Bee columnist for criticising his brother in a recent column. Cousins was pointing at the columnist and screaming obscenities before being pulled away by a teammate. Prior to the win over the Blazers, Cousins released a statement apologizing for his actions.
The bizarre sequence on Tuesday adds another piece to the Cousins puzzle — as talented and dominant as any player in the league, but always on the edge of hurting his team in crucial moments.