LOS ANGELES -- In the second half of Friday's 115-105 loss against the Phoenix Suns, teammates Anthony Davis (Lakers) and Dwight Howard (Lakers) got into a heated argument.
After a verbal fight on the sideline, Howard and Davis were forced to be separated by their teammates amid a Phoenix 27-11 run to take a 13 point halftime lead.
Frank Vogel, Lakers coach, said that "when you're getting your ars kicked sometimes those conversations get heated." They love each other. They had a great conversation. They agreed that it would happen from time-to-time. I would rather my guys care than not care."
After a Suns timeout ended, Davis confronted Howard. Howard was still seated at the bench. L.A.'s backup centre jumped to his feet to meet Davis eye-to-eye.
Howard was approaching Davis, who grabbed Howard's arms, and pushed. Howard lost his balance and fell backwards towards the bench. Malik Monk, Avery Bradley and Avery Bradley intervened. Bradley held Davis. Tensions continued boiling over with Davis pointing out and jawing at Howard before Rajon Rondo and LeBron James intervened, with Bradley holding Davis.
Howard stated that they had "stomped it right there and then." "We had a disagreement over something that was on hand. Both of us are passionate about winning. We were both passionate about winning this game and didn't want it to end. We made it through. Things happen when you're grown men. We are going to squash the little issue between us, and that's mine, that's his teammate.
Davis had 22 points and 14 rebounds to help cut the Suns' 32-point lead to nine late in fourth quarter. He also downplayed the incident.
Davis stated, "It's over," explaining that the dispute was about their pick-and roll coverage. "After the incident, me and DH talked about it and we closed it."
Howard didn't play in the second period. Vogel explained that Howard was not playing because Vogel wanted to assess a smaller team and not as a discipline.
Howard stated, "We're just trying get it together." Howard said, "This is our second and last game. We have to do it right. It's early to see that many people are counting on us. It's still early. We are going to do this together, despite everyone laughing at us.
Magic Johnson, a former Lakers star, was among the many concerned onlookers. He took to Twitter to give a blunt assessment about the current state of the team.
Dwight Howard and AD got into an altercation on the bench... In my 42 years of association with the Lakers, I have never seen anything like it smh Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson). October 23, 2021
The @Lakers have both a basketball and team issue. Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson), October 23, 2021
James, who has had his fair share slow starts with teams with high expectations, going 8-7 with the Miami Heat in 2010-11 and 19-20 with Cleveland Cavaliers in 2014-15, tried to put things into perspective.
He stated, "Obviously, the goal of the game is win ballgames." But building a team is only half of the journey. It's something I have experienced firsthand. It's not easy to create something unique and I'm well aware of the flaws that can occur. You will get frustrated sometimes, no matter how hard you try. But you know what your capabilities are. You know what your team can do. It just takes time.
Howard and Davis were not the only ones frustrated. Vogel was given a technical foul after he came onto the court to dispute a no-call. Davis and Deandre Ayton were also penalized for engaging in a physical altercation. Rondo had a conversation with a fan sitting on the courtside bench late in the third quarter. Rondo moved toward the fan to inform the ref to intervene. The fan shoved Rondo away and was promptly escorted by Staples Center security out of the arena.
Vogel stated that he believed they were three separate situations when Vogel suggested to a reporter that the Lakers allowed their emotions to get the better of them as a team.
After a disappointing preseason and injuries to Trevor Ariza, Talen Horton Tucker, and Kendrick Nunn, which will keep them out for a substantial portion of the early season and the start of the regular season, James said the obvious: "We have to get better."
The Lakers star didn't take offense at Friday's frustration, considering it part of the new standard L.A. wants to set with its new roster.
"We're competitors," James said. James said, "We're competitors." As a team, we enjoy that. We enjoy the challenge. I love the adversity. I also like that two men can talk about it together and then move on.
"That's what real men do. They don't allow it to linger. They will say what you have to say, and then you can talk about it. Then they move on. They did that tonight.