If you were at Sleep Train Arena about 90 minutes before tipoff Monday night, you would have thought the Kings were handling major laundry duty.
Before fans entered for the game against the Milwaukee Bucks, T-shirts that were placed on every seat to celebrate the Lunar New Year were being collected and put in large piles. The shirts had a monkey on the front because this is the year of the monkey.
The shirts became an issue because they were to be distributed on the first day of Black History Month, when NBA players and coaches wear commemorative shirts.
“We all need a lesson in sensitivity,” Kings president Chris Granger said. “In an effort to celebrate Chinese New Year, we had some concerns about the T-shirt giveaway, so we pulled them all before the doors opened. Certainly we don’t want to offend anybody, and we acted as soon as we heard the concern.”
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Center DeMarcus Cousins was one of the first people to raise concern with team officials, and soon thereafter, the shirts were collected.
Former NBA player and current Milwaukee TV analyst Marques Johnson applauded Cousins for speaking up and the Kings for removing the shirts.
“Good move Kings,” Johnson tweeted. “Year of Monkey Tees on 1st day of Black History Month not a good look. Thanks DeMarcus.”
More lineup shuffling – The Kings were without two starters: Cousins (sprained left ankle) and guard Ben McLemore (sprained right wrist).
“I think they’re both day-to-day” coach George Karl said. “As you know, I don’t spend a lot of time on injuries. I get the hands that are dealt.”
The Kings entered Monday 1-7 in games without Cousins. The win came in November at Milwaukee.
McLemore never had missed a game in his three-year career, a 211-game span. He said he was injured during Saturday’s loss to the Memphis Grizzlies.
Cousins also was hurt at Memphis. After rolling his ankle in the first half, Cousins stayed in the game, only to be re-injured when Marc Gasol rolled into it late in the game.
Karl used his 17th different starting lineup of the season Monday, starting Kosta Koufos for Cousins and Marco Belinelli for McLemore.
Fewer options – Cousins is the Kings’ leading scorer and primary option on offense, so his absence forced Karl to adjust the game plan.
“Our playbook isn’t extensive,” Karl said with a chuckle. “When you have to take Cuz’s actions out, all of a sudden it’s short. Had to put a few new plays in this morning.”