Cousins and Kings coach Keith Smart exchanged words in the locker room during halftime of Sacramento's 97-85 loss at the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night. Smart benched Cousins for the entire second half and ordered him to remain in the locker room.
Cousins also was suspended one game without pay by the NBA for striking O.J. Mayo in the groin during a loss at Dallas on Dec. 10. Following a loss at San Antonio on Nov. 9, the league suspended Cousins two games without pay for confronting Spurs announcer Sean Elliott in a "hostile manner."
"We're trying to set a standard here, and when guys move below that standard, things are going to take place," Smart said after the game in Los Angeles. "We'll just move on to the next game and I'll make some decisions from there."
Cousins, drafted fifth overall in 2010, took responsibility for the incident after the game. The 22-year-old center is averaging a team-high 16.6 points and 9.5 rebounds to go with 2.1 assists and 1.3 steals per game this season.
"What happens in the locker room stays in the locker room. But I was wrong. I was wrong," said Cousins, who scored nine points in 20 minutes. "I'm a player that definitely wants to win every night, and I'm an emotional player. That's never going to change. But I shouldn't have responded back. Something was said, and I just should have stayed quiet. Is it a humbling thing? Yeah, I will say that. I mean, I messed up and I apologize to my teammates for responding the way I did and I'll move on from it."
Cousins' behavior has been well documented going back to high school and his one season at Kentucky.
He has mixed in dramatic and astonishing plays with outbursts against players, coaches, trainers and referees. Cousins clashed often last season with Kings coach Paul Westphal, who was fired after a 2-5 start -- a move that came after he released a statement criticizing Cousins' commitment to the team and excusing him for a game.
After Cousins' workout over the summer in Las Vegas with the U.S. select team, which helped Team USA prepare for the London Olympics, USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo said Cousins "has some growing up to do." Cousins later said he was just playing hard and that rubbed some the wrong way.
The Kings, who have dropped six of seven, host Portland on Sunday.