SACRAMENTO • DeMarcus Cousins entered the Sacramento Kings' locker room after sprinting from one end of the Golden 1 Centre court to the other and up the tunnel intent on one thing - finding anything he could to destroy.
Moments earlier, he had been ejected for picking up his second technical foul. At least it looked that way.
"I was caught up in that moment of what I'm going to tear up in the locker room," he said. "And before I could find anything, they called me back to come shoot the foul shot."
He made it, completing a three-point play to cap a 55-point night, then stayed in the contest - his apparent technical foul rescinded - blocked a shot and soaked up "MVP" (Most Valuable Player) chants from the home crowd in the Kings' 126-121 win over the Portland Trail Blazers in the National Basketball Association on Tuesday.
Even on the nights when he is unstoppable, Cousins cannot avoid controversy.
"I've never seen anything like that," he said.
It was a night unlike many for Sacramento's seventh-year forward, and he has had plenty that stood out, both positively and negatively.
NEARLY LOSING IT
I was caught up in that moment of what I'm going to tear up in the locker room. And before I could find anything, they called me back to come shoot the foul shot.
DEMARCUS COUSINS, Sacramento Kings centre, on his reaction after being initially ejected from the game.
His season-best scoring night, which wound up one point short of his career high set against the Charlotte Hornets on Jan 25 a season ago, came on his first night playing at home since his controversial run-in with a Sacramento Bee sports columnist on Monday.
The incident, in which Cousins was videotaped threatening and cursing at Andy Furillo, brought a US$50,000 (S$72,230) fine from the Kings and an apology to everybody but the Bee and its writer in a statement from the player.
The fine is the latest in a series of off-court and on-court incidents that have plagued Cousins' career.
He is currently being sued, along with team-mate Matt Barnes, for an alleged assault at a New York nightclub on Dec 5.
As usual, though, Cousins' most powerful statement came on the court.
Sacramento's leading scorer and rebounder, he racked up six consecutive points and drew an offensive foul to cap a 27-8 run spanning the third and fourth quarters, turning the game around.
"We played like crap in the first half, especially on defence, but we picked it up in the second half and picked up a good, solid win," Cousins said.
His apparent ejection came with 35 seconds left after he scored on a driving lay-up and was fouled.
He responded emotionally, pumping his arms, then glared at the Blazers bench and shouted something.
As he did, his mouthpiece flew towards the bench, and the referees whistled him for the technical that they overturned moments later.
"From my vantage point, he taunted our bench, and when he did, his mouthpiece flew out," Blazers coach Terry Stotts said.
"I was asked if he threw it, and when I said no, that's when they overturned the technical foul. It flew out while he was yelling. I don't know if it was intentional."
Asked if his mouthpiece came out accidentally, Cousins said: "Yes, man. This is ridiculous. Ridiculous."
The 26-year-old said he was on the verge of breaking things in the Kings' dressing room when he got word that the officials had changed their minds.
Cousins denied that he spit out the mouthpiece.
"I would never spit," he said. "I am not like that."
Referee Brian Forte said he initially thought Cousins threw the mouthpiece into the stands.
"I conferred with my partners and they confirmed that he did not throw the mouthpiece," he said.
Portland's Meyers Leonard said he was the object of Cousins' outburst.
"He deserved to be out of the game," he said.
"His antics are over the top. He is disrespectful."
Cousins' rejection of Damian Lillard's shot on Portland's next possession resulted in Sacramento's Ty Lawson getting fouled and hitting two free throws.
It also put Cousins ahead of current general manager Vlade Divac for third on the team's all-time list with 524 blocks. Cousins had 13 rebounds on Tuesday too.
"DeMarcus had a nice game. Okay, that's kind of an understatement," Kings coach Dave Joerger said.
"Any of us who would get thrown out in what we think is a questionable deal, you go back, and you're feeling terrible, mentally you're done, and to come back out... and make the free throw was very impressive."
Guard C.J. McCollum scored 36 points for Portland, his third straight game with at least 30 against the Kings (11-17) over the past two seasons, but the Blazers lost their third straight game.
The Blazers (13-17) were undone by their defence, surrendering 66 points in the second half and at least 125 overall for the third consecutive contest.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE