Both compelling and controversial, DeMarcus Cousins came to the Target Center near the end of one of the stranger months of his career so far.
Basketball-wise, Sacramento’s forward/center came into Friday’s game with the Wolves at Target Center averaging 29.0 points, 10.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists.
Friday night the former Kentucky star had 32 points with seven rebounds, seven assists, four steals and two blocks.
“There’s not much he can’t do,’’ Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau said.
And includes courting some controversy. On Dec. 12 he directed an outburst at a Sacramento Bee columnist over a piece he had written that included a reference to Cousins’ brother. He was fined for the outburst.
In his first game after that story broke, Cousins scored 55 points in a game in which he was ejected, and then un-ejected, in the game’s closing moments. The Kings and Portland were tied at 119 late when Cousins scored and was fouled. He turned toward the Portland bench as if to taunt it, then was ejected when officials thought he had thrown his mouthpiece at the bench. After a discussion, the refs rescinded the ejection, saying the mouthpiece came out accidentally. Cousins re-entered the arena bowl, sans his customary headband, and made the free throw in a game the Kings ultimately won.
More? Advance copies of George Karl’s book have been making the rounds. In it Karl criticizes many of his former players, including Cousins.
Through it all, the Kings have warmed up, having won two straight and four out of six entering Friday’s game.
“We don’t talk about it because it’s not a controversy,’’ said Kings coach Dave Joerger. “It’s not an issue for us. If it’s on the outside it is. But it’s not something that is a distraction for us.’’
Cousins wouldn’t talk about anything off-court. But he did take time after the Kings’ morning workout to praise Thibodeau. The two worked together twice for Team USA, including at the Rio Olympics.
Cousins called Thibodeau one of the best coaches in the NBA.
“I think he brings the best out of you,’’ he said. “He expects the best, and nothing short of it.’’
Having played for Thibs, Cousins predicted great things for the Wolves.
“This is going to be scary,’’ he said. “No doubt about it. Once he gets his system going with these guys, when it’s really instilled in them? It’s going to be a scary team.’’
Thibodeau enjoyed working with Cousins.
“He’s great,” Thibodeau said. “You can only speak on your own experience with someone. And with Team USA he was phenomenal.
‘‘We won two gold medals. And he was a big part of both of those teams.
‘‘He played great for us, whatever we asked him to do — start, come off the bench, score, play defense, rebound. He did it all.’’
• Earlier this season, after UCLA beat Kentucky at Rupp Arena, both Zach LaVine and Shabazz Muhammad were quick to give Karl-Anthony Towns grief for it. It happened again this week, when Louisville beat Kentucky on Wednesday.
Gorgui Dieng, who went to Louisville, tweeted: “Who won between UK@UofL @KarlTowns?
“It’s fun making fun of your teammates,’’ Dieng joked Friday morning.
• Joerger, a native of Staples, made sure his team flew into the Twin Cities following the Kings’ game in Utah on Wednesday so that he could spend time with his family Thursday. Friday morning he was trying to solicit extra tickets from players and coaches to accommodate his friends and family at the game.