DeMarcus Cousins, who recently served an automatic one-game suspension for drawing his 16th technical foul this season, didn’t have to wait long for No. 17.
Cousins was called for another technical foul Sunday with 1:06 left in the first quarter after his arm appeared to strike Pelicans center Donatas Motiejunas in the face as both were going for a rebound.
The contact appeared incidental, but Cousins immediately was assessed a technical foul, and the call was upheld on review. Cousins then was subbed out of the game and left the court, disappearing for a brief stretch into the Kings’ locker room.
“I just tried to gather my thoughts, get myself together,” Cousins said afterward. “The last couple of days have been very frustrating for me. I’m looking for it to ease up at some point, and it just doesn’t seem like it wants to or is going to happen.”
Cousins sat out the Kings’ win over the Celtics last Wednesday after drawing his 16th technical Monday, becoming the fastest player to amass 16 technical fouls since that total began triggering automatic suspensions during the 2005-06 season.
Cousins, who also has had three technicals rescinded by the league, already has matched his total of 17 from last season, when he led the NBA. His next technical would bring another one-game suspension.
“It’s obvious I can’t be myself,” Cousins said. “Me playing how I play is what makes me the player that I am. Obviously it’s not acceptable, so I’m trying to find a way to, you know, do what these guys are asking me to do. It’s not easy, but I’m trying to find a way.”
Every even-numbered technical by Cousins for the rest of the season will draw another one-game suspension, while each technical from No. 16 to 20 also carries a fine of $5,000. Cousins also loses one game’s salary, about $192,152, for each suspension.
Kings coach Dave Joerger was asked about Cousins’ technicals before the game Sunday and said the often demonstrative All-Star must find a balance on the court.
“It’ll be interesting to see his approach,” Joerger said. “We want him to be competitive, but how you have to work through that mentally, it’s just a work in progress. It’s tough on him, and I think it was tough for him to handle the other night, because he’s an emotional guy, and he plays passionate, emotional basketball. So there’s some things that we can improve, and it does take time.”
Cousins also was on the receiving end of a painful foul in Sunday’s first half. New Orleans guard Buddy Hield was assessed a Flagrant 2 foul and ejected after appearing to hit Cousins below the belt just before halftime.
Big matchup – Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry counts among his players the starting center for this year’s Western Conference All-Star team, Anthony Davis. But on Sunday, Gentry directed a superlative toward Davis’ counterpart, Cousins.
“He’s probably the most talented big man in the league,” Gentry said of Cousins.
Comparisons have been drawn between the two bigs from Kentucky since Davis entered the NBA in 2012, two years after Cousins. Davis is having his best professional season statistically, averaging 27.9 points and 12.1 rebounds per game entering Sunday.
Cousins is averaging a career-high 27.8 points and has expanded his game to include more 3-point shooting (36.2 percent) and a career-best 4.7 assists a game while often running the Kings’ offense.
“I think AD plays out on the floor a little more than DeMarcus, although DeMarcus has the ability to do that,” Gentry said. “I just think (Cousins is) a much stronger, more physical player. He is very capable of getting all your big guys in foul trouble … He’s a remarkable talent.”
Davis recently was voted to his fourth consecutive All-Star Game, Cousins to his third. Both also will compete in the Skills Challenge during All-Star Weekend in New Orleans.