The Los Angeles Lakers might be a good team at some point, but so far they’ve shown few signs of that status. Their season-opening loss to the Golden State Warriors was ugly (if not completely demoralizing), but their 115-105 defeat against the Phoenix Suns to fall to 0-2 was even worse, one of their ugliest losses since this team became a contender, an ugliness epitomized by a second quarter that saw tensions boil over into a sideline skirmish between Anthony Davis and Dwight Howard.
We don’t yet know the reason for the inter-team tiff, but whatever it was, things got heated enough that Howard and Davis had to be separated by their teammates, and the whole thing was caught by the nationally televised ESPN broadcast:
Anthony Davis and Dwight Howard work through some issues during a timeout...pic.twitter.com/RizGT0p823— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) October 23, 2021
Howard did not play in the second half, which head coach Frank Vogel insisted after the game was not a disciplinary action.
But regardless of how big of a deal you think this all is, it would at the very least be nice if this Lakers team could stop giving us reasons to compare them to the 2012-13 version.
The on-court play didn’t offer much more reason for optimism in this one. It’s only their second game together that counts, and they’re dealing with a cascade of injuries to an overhauled and unfamiliar team, but while it’s possible the Lakers figure things out and make any worries about their ultimate ceiling look dumb, nights like Friday won’t do a lot to quell worries about this roster’s fit.
The Lakers shot just 39.3% from the field, led by inefficient nights from Russell Westbrook (6-15) and Anthony Davis (6-18). They won’t shoot this poorly every night, but the restructured offense looks stagnant and lifeless, and on the other end the Suns hit shots like they were nonchalantly jogging through warmups as the Lakers failed to make basic rotations.
That they played a bit better and closed the gap in the fourth with the three stars in a lineup with Carmelo Anthony and Austin Reaves — the latter of whom has earned a real look in a competitive game on Sunday — after this contest was out of hand does little to encourage a ton of hope, but when they set the bar as low as they did early, progress is progress, I guess.
In short, this team has a lot to work on and fix, and they’re clearly feeling the frustration. Responding to it better than they did for most of a game that saw them show some fight to everyone — the referees, each other — except the Suns will be key if they’re going to dig their way out of these early issues.