Cousins, Kings look to make positive headlines against Trail Blazers (Dec 20, 2016)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The Sacramento Kings are losing games, and their franchise player finds himself in the kind of headlines athletes do not want to make.

It is just another typical onset to winter in California’s capitol.

The Kings look to make headlines for the right reasons Tuesday night when they host the Portland Trail Blazers at the Golden 1 Center.

The Kings are playing their third home game in their last 12 contests and it is the first time on their homecourt since a videotape of center DeMarcus Cousins surfaced of him hurling obscenities at a Sacramento Bee columnist, an incident that has caused a stir in and outside the team.

Cousins objected to the columnist in question, Andy Furillo, referencing DeMarcus’ brother Jaleel in a piece about an incident at a New York City nightclub early Dec. 5 involving Cousins and teammate Matt Barnes. In the video, he can be heard shouting obscenities and threatening Furillo. That same night, he refused to speak with the media, unless Furillo was not there — a stance he has taken with other media members this season.

Coach Dave Joerger came to Cousins’ defense before the team’s 99-79 loss at Dallas on Sunday, telling reporters there that the Bee’s release of the video and subsequent editorial comparing Cousins to a bully was “ridiculous.”

“This guy is the face of the franchise,” Joerger said. “He’s done and said some things he wishes he could do over. He’s improved; he’s gotten better. But to go and use other reporters, third person, oh he bullies his coaches or he bullies, that is (trash).”

The incident hasn’t much galvanized the Kings (10-17). The blowout loss to the team with the NBA’s worst record was their seventh in 10 games. They will enter winter below .500 for the sixth time in Cousins’ seven seasons (the exception being when the 2011-12 lockout season started Christmas Day), and at least seven games below .500 for the fifth time.

In his seven seasons, Cousins also has endured two suspensions by the league and one by the Kings, as well as a bout of viral meningitis two seasons that essentially cut short Sacramento’s lone promising start in his stint.

The Blazers (13-16) have not lived up to the promise forecast for them entering the campaign. They have dropped six of seven and were particularly without competitiveness in a 135-90 road loss against the Golden State Warriors on Saturday.

That thrashing came on the heels of a 132-120 loss at Denver on Dec. 15, a game in which Portland trailed by at least 10 points the entire second half. They are last among the NBA’s 30 teams in defensive efficiency (109.6) and have been just lifeless long enough for guard Damian Lillard to tell ESPN that the Blazers “lack heart.”

“I feel like we’re going to be fine,” guard C.J. McCollum told the Oregonian. “I truly believe that.”

McCollum may have reason to feel confident.

He scored 31 and 30 points in his past two games against Sacramento. He also became the first player in 10 seasons to record at least 35 points, 11 rebounds, nine assists and five steals in a game when he put up those totals in a visit to Sacramento last December.

Lillard scored 36 points as the Blazers beat the Kings 122-120 in overtime on Nov. 11 in their only other meeting this season.