The minutes of evidence are minimal and the sample sizes are small. But … they’re getting larger by the game.
It’s been two games. The Lakers aren’t well. And after a month of preaching patience, the signs that it’s wearing thin are the most defining trait of a team with four of the NBA’s greatest 75 players on its roster.
Players fighting with one another, another jawing with a fan, a coach running onto the court in a moment of rage and bad basketball clouding any rays of positivity defined a 115-105 loss to the Suns.
The ugliest scene happened with just more than three minutes left in the first half, with Dwight Howard and Anthony Davis getting into a physical altercation on the team’s bench during a timeout.
Cameras caught Davis grabbing Howard by the arm, and when teammates intervened, Howard ended up getting shoved back onto the bench. Davis pointed his finger at Howard as he was pushed away.
During the rest of the timeout, Howard bounced around the perimeter, upset with the situation. Davis and Howard later got face-to-face and had an animated conversation before the timeout ended.
The Suns scored eight of the next 11 points to cap a disastrous second quarter when Phoenix outscored the Lakers 34-18.
With the taste of the embarrassing quarter still coating their palettes, the Lakers came out and were immediately beaten for an uncontested dunk by Mikal Bridges to start the second half.
Davis and Howard weren’t the only two unable to keep the building disappointment from the Lakers’ start to the 2021-22 season under control.
Upset that officials didn’t call Chris Paul for an offensive foul, coach Frank Vogel ran onto the court to argue, quickly drawing a technical foul. A second technical and an ejection could’ve been looming had assistant coach David Fizdale not nudged Vogel back toward the bench.
Later, Rajon Rondo and a fan sitting courtside got into an argument, with Rondo signaling for security and the fan slapping Rondo’s hand out of his face. The fan was ejected.
Their energy, just like their composure, was zapped — LeBron James racing back to challenge a Cameron Johnson dunk attempt only to spend the subsequent possession in the backcourt while the Lakers bricked shot after shot.
At least early on, the Lakers were making some jump shots, helping keep the score tight despite their obvious deficiencies on both sides of the court. That they fell behind by double digits was bad enough — that they were making 60% of their three-pointers at the time is a major red flag.
The shooting went cold as the Lakers fell behind by as many as 32 to the Suns, the last team the Lakers actually beat — back on May 27 — 148 days ago.
The team showed life in the fourth quarter, this time sparked by some positive minutes coinciding with Austin Reaves’ NBA debut. Reaves hit the first three shots of his career before missing late in the fourth to score eight in the game.
With Trevor Ariza, Kendrick Nunn, Talen Horton-Tucker and Wayne Ellington all injured and unavailable to play, Vogel turned to the undrafted rookie after stints with Avery Bradley, Malik Monk and Kent Bazemore were mixed, at best.
Predictably, Westbrook was better Friday than he was in his debut, though the spacing issues created by having a poor shooting point guard might not be going anywhere. Friday he was 6-for-15 shooting for 15 points with 10 rebounds and eight assists.
Davis, who picked up double technical fouls with Suns center Deandre Ayton, finished with 22 points and 14 rebounds. James scored 25 to go with five assists.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.