SACRAMENTO (AP) — The Sacramento Kings put aside the commotion swirling around DeMarcus Cousins, at least for a day, and focused on the New Orleans Hornets.
Cousins was absent Sunday night, told by coach Paul Westphal to stay away from the team after demanding a trade, and the Kings stopped a three-game slide with a 96-80 victory. Tyreke Evans had 27 points and Marcus Thornton scored 25 for Sacramento.
The 21-year-old Cousins was among several players who expressed frustration with the team’s poor play after a 114-92 loss to the New York Knicks on Saturday.
Kings veteran forward Chuck Hayes said he’s tried to counsel Cousins regarding his emotional swings that have led to outbursts on and off the court the last two seasons.
“Maybe it takes him a couple of more years to really get it,” Hayes said. “As good as he is talented, that’s how emotional he is as well. You have to have a short-term memory in this game. That’s my young fella, my teammate. If he wants to come back everyone on his team would love to have him.”
But does the organization want Cousins to return?
“(Coming back) will be pretty much up to him,” Westphal said. “He said he wanted to be traded. If he doesn’t want to be here then we have a lot of guys that will be going the same direction.”
Asked during halftime if Cousins would be traded, Kings vice president of basketball operations Geoff Petrie said he would talk to the brooding center on Monday.
“He has to grow up,” Petrie said.
Neither Petrie or Westphal would reveal why Cousins was requesting a trade. The Kings travel to Memphis for a Tuesday game and play in Denver on Wednesday.
With Cousins not in the lineup, the Hornets outrebounded the Kings 60-41. Evans says Cousins is missed.
“He’s a good player and we need him,” Evans said. “You’ve just got to go out there and play — wake up and play basketball, the game we love. Hopefully he can get it together and be part of this team.”
Trevor Ariza had 17 points for the Hornets, who have dropped two straight after opening the season with a pair of victories. Chris Kaman contributed 14 points and 15 rebounds, Emeka Okafor had 13 points and 12 rebounds, and Carl Landry had 12 points.
The Hornets went 0-for-15 on 3-point attempts, the most missed tries without a basket in franchise history. The total was the worst in the NBA since the New York Knicks went 0-for-18 on March 6, 2010, against the New Jersey Nets.
“We’ve just got to keep plugging away and knock down shots,” Hornets coach Monty Williams said. “That’s something we can fix.”
What the Hornets couldn’t fix in the second half was stopping Evans, who had 18 points after intermission. Evans shot 9 of 18 from the field, made 7 of 8 free throws and added four rebounds and three assists. John Salmons added 13 points for the Kings, who outscored the Hornets 58-40 in the second half.
“We had too many breakdowns and too much penetration,” Landry said. “Tyreke got into the lane a lot tonight and Marcus Thornton got into the lane, too. They did a good job of attacking and getting into the paint.”
Evans provided a huge lift in the third quarter to help put the Kings ahead and also delivered in the fourth. With the shot clock running down, Evans made a 28-foot 3-pointer then followed with a dunk off a fast break, putting Sacramento ahead 90-72 with 3:42 remaining.
Hornets standout guard Eric Gordon missed his third straight game. Gordon bruised his knee in the season opener and is still listed as day to day while the Hornets try to be cautious with him.
Thornton was acquired by the Kings from New Orleans last year in February for Landry.
“It’s not personal (with New Orleans), I’m trying to beat every team that we play,” Thornton said. “But it feels good against a New Orleans team. I looked over there a couple of times.”
Struggling on offense in the opening half when they shot 30 percent, the Kings got going in the third quarter behind Evans. The Kings point guard was penetrating inside for baskets and also made several perimeter shots in scoring 13 points.
Evans received plenty of help from Salmons, who made a pair of 3-pointers and scored eight points as the Kings outscored New Orleans 30-18 to assume a 68-58 lead heading into the fourth.
NOTES: Kings veteran Francisco Garcia made his first appearance of the season, starting the second quarter. He also opened the fourth quarter and hit a pair of 3-pointers to extend the Kings lead. He finished with six points in nine minutes. … After the game, the Kings announced that both center Hassan Whiteside and forward Tyler Honeycutt were assigned to the Reno Bighorns of the NBA Development team. Whiteside hadn’t played this season and Honeycutt had played just four minutes in five games.
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press)