While Blake Griffin continues to excel for the Los Angeles Clippers, things seem to be getting worse for Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins.
Two rookie big men headed in opposite directions meet Monday night when the Clippers try to hand the Kings an eighth straight loss.
Griffin is averaging 21.1 points and 12.4 rebounds to lead all rookies, and enters with 18 straight double-doubles. He finished with 28 points and 12 boards before fouling out for the second time this season in a 108-103 win over Phoenix on Sunday, the Clippers' fourth victory in five games.
"I don't know how this kind of game would have gone if it was game 3 or 4 or 5," Griffin said. "But now that we're more comfortable with each other, guys know what to do."
Despite ranking second behind Griffin among rookies with 11.4 points and 7.4 rebounds per game, Cousins is enduring a trying first season.
He was kicked out of a practice last month, and was removed from the starting lineup for Thursday's 84-79 loss to Milwaukee. Coach Paul Westphal made the move after fining Cousins an undisclosed amount for making a choking gesture at Golden State guard Reggie Williams during Tuesday's 117-109 overtime loss.
"Everything we're trying to do with DeMarcus is looking through the lens to what's best for DeMarcus and what's best for the team, both long-term and for these games," Westphal said. "It all factors in. I think it's important that he learns how to be a professional. That goes from his concentration at meetings to his effort in practice. It's all a part of professionalism."
Cousins finished with two points, four fouls and five rebounds in 13 minutes Thursday.
"I'm not going to speak out about that (not starting)," Cousins said. "I knew it would be up and down, but that's how it is in the NBA. Right now we have to look for some type of positive. The only thing right now is that we can grow from it and learn from it."
The rookie is far from the only problem for Sacramento (5-22), as rumors circulate that Westphal's job is in jeopardy. Leading scorer Tyreke Evans had a season-low four points on 2-of-13 shooting Thursday, and is shooting 30.5 percent in his last eight games.
"I talked to Tyreke after the game and he has some things bothering him that I really don't think is anybody's business," Westphal said. "There's more going on in his life, it's kind of a difficult time right now."
Griffin averaged 19.0 points and 13.0 rebounds in two home wins over Sacramento this season. Eric Gordon averaged 28.5 points in those games to lead the way for Los Angeles (9-22).
Cousins totaled 22 points, 13 rebounds and nine fouls in the losses while Evans averaged 12.0 points and shot 21.9 percent.
Evans was at his best in last season's two home wins over the Clippers, averaging 25.0 points on 52.5 percent shooting. The Kings have won five straight home meetings with the Pacific Division rival Clippers and 22 of the last 24 matchups at ARCO Arena.
The Clippers have won consecutive road games after losing their first 11.
The Associated Press News Service
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