As bad as the opening two performances of the season were for the Lakers on the court, it was how things were seemingly imploding off of it that drew the headlines. In the midst of the Lakers loss to Phoenix on Friday, Dwight Howard and Anthony Davis’ disagreement turned shoving match became a microcosm for the team’s poor start to the season.
After the game, both Davis and Howard downplayed the kerfuffle, with the latter attributing it to an intensity the team has had — and will have — each day this season.
“There’s nothing causing frustration,” Howard said. “We want to win... We know that we have less time in this league than we would have... We’re not that young. So every game, every practice, we’re intense. All our practices, we’re intense. We’re talking trash, we’re pushing each other because we want to win. So we’re gonna get it together.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that we’re gonna end up being the team that we’re supposed to be, but you’ve got to crawl before you walk. You can’t just come in and expect to win because we’re the Lakers and we’ve got some of the best players in the world. We’re going to win when we come together and figure it out as a team,” Howard continued. “It’s not about what’s on the back of the jersey, it’s about what’s on the front, and we all know that we’re representing more than just ourselves. Every night that we step on the court, every day in practice, every moment that we have in this game, we take it very seriously.
“We want to win, so we will have those moments of frustration, and we’ll try to get it together. We’re not going to separate, we’re not going to allow anybody to separate. We’re going to stay a close-knit team of brothers and men.”
As is the case with any situation like this, the fact the Lakers were losing magnifies the situation. If the team was capping off a 2-0 start and Howard and Davis were arguing on the sideline, it would have drawn little publicity. But that it came on a night they were getting blown out while having already lost their opener made the situation a big talking point.
Based on the reaction from the team that night in the ensuing days after, it does appear to have been a one-off argument between the two, and not a simmering situation that could further explode this season.
Leading up to this season, Davis spoke about his desire to be pushed — though in a figurative sense, which could be where Howard got confused — by his teammates, and included Howard as one of the teammates that does so. Following practice last Thursday, Davis spoke that when discussing how injuries last season changed his outlook on basketball.
“The game of basketball is fun,” Davis said. “The guys that we have on the team are fun to play with and cool to be around which makes that a lot easier to go out there. Then you’ve got Russell Westbrook out there who’s cocky, running around, being a loose cannon out there running around, you kind of just match that energy. Guys who can push you. Rondo, Dwight, DJ, Bron, Melo, all these guys are always pushing me to be better and better.”
Howard and Davis have had no squabbles in the past, and Friday likely was a one-time incident. If the response is right after that moment, it could be used to galvanize the team and draw them closer as they look to right their wrongs through the opening three games and get back on the right track in the coming days and weeks.