Sacramento, Calif. • Al Jefferson and Kings center DeMarcus Cousins have developed something of a rivalry, with the younger Sacramento player experiencing some of his most volatile climaxes against Jefferson and the Jazz.
But it's not the way it looks on the outside, Jefferson said.
"He's never barked at me," Jefferson said, adding, "me and him [are] real good friends."
In fact, before Cousins was ejected Monday at halftime at EnergySolutions Arena his second ejection of the year against the Jazz the only conversation he and Jefferson had was cordial.
"Right before he got the T, he said that I got him with my ball fake again," Jefferson said, "and he be telling himself every time that he's not going for my ball fake and I tell him, man, you got to add that to your game."
The one thing the Kings seem desperate for Cousins to remove from his game is a penchant for explosive behavior. Going into Saturday's game, he had the league lead in technical fouls, with 12.
"He's an emotional player," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "I think his emotions get the best of him at times he overreacts or acts too demonstrative when they make calls against him. He's a talented player. It's unfortunate that he gets kicked out of games."
Cousins leads the Kings with 17.2 points and 10 rebounds per game and is inarguably one of the top young centers in the NBA. On Monday, he scored 10 points and grabbed six rebounds in just half a game, before he confronted a referee. When the referee wouldn't answer his question, he later told the media, he became insulting and was cited.
"He has to learn how to channel his energy," Corbin said. "But to see him play with emotion is great. I think most guys that's really successful in this league has a zest for the game."
With a sale in place, the Kings appear set to pack up their bags and move to Seattle after this season, which would mean Saturday night was the Jazz's last appearance in Sacramento.
"Hopefully it's not," said Corbin, who played for the Kings in 1995-96 and 1999-2000. "This is a great community, the fans here have really supported the team for a number of years, there's a lot of jobs for a number of folks. Seeing the team leave would hurt a lot of people and be an unfortunate situation."
While the Kings rank last in the NBA in attendance at 13,214 per game, Saturday night marked an attempt by fans to sell out the arena to send a message to the NBA that the community still cares about the team.
At the end of the 1990s and into the 2000s, when Sleep Train Arena was Arco Arena, Sacramento was consistently among the league leaders in sellouts.
"I don't know the economics or the bottom line," Corbin said, "but playing here, people were always excited. Coming here and playing the Kings, the people always seem to be excited about NBA basketball and supporting the team."