Thomas Robinson defends J.J. Hickson. (Photo: Steven Chea)

Surrounded by controversy yet again, the Sacramento Kings return to the court tonight to host the visiting Portland Trail Blazers.  Sacramento will be without starting center DeMarcus Cousins, who was suspended yesterday for “unprofessional behavior and conduct detrimental to the team”.

Without their 22-year-old center, the Kings will miss an inordinate amount of size for an unspecified period of time.  Kings coach Keith Smart says much like injury, it’s a disadvantage his team will just have to deal with.

You gotta play the game.  You can’t grow someone right now.  You can’t go out and find a 7-footer that everyone loves, so you gotta go play.  For me, I always look at (in comparison) an injury, what did you do?  You gotta play.  Situations happen (like) a suspension (have happened) before.  What do you do?  You play.  And you gotta keep doing that and sometimes you find a way.  Like last night (Friday versus the Clippers), a couple big plays here, a couple shots go down, we almost found a way last night.  So you never know what can happen when a group galvanizes itself behind a situation that has happened.  And you never know what can take place.

The Kings have played the Trail Blazers twice the season.  In their first meeting last month, Portland easily handled the Kings, who played without Cousins and Isaiah Thomas due to suspension and personal issues respectively.  In their previous match-up two weeks ago, the Kings got their revenge while visiting the Pacific Northwest on the second game of a back-to-back.

Kings small forward James Johnson believes the tone of tonight’s game must be set by their backcourt.

We need our guard play to be spectacular like it was.  Aaron Brooks put on a phenomenal show.  Isaiah did shut down (Damian) Lillard, made him look like a rookie.  And I think that’s what we’re going to need.  It starts with them two guys…and then everybody else is going to have to follow.  They got big guys who can rebound.  We got guys like Travis Outlaw who’s ready to come off and jump higher than anybody I (know).

Tip-off between the Kings and Blazers is set for 6 pm at Sleep Train Arena.  Follow Cowbell Kingdom for continued pre and postgame coverage.