The Los Angeles Lakers have had a hard enough time contending with their opponents thus far this season. Their two opening losses represent the first time in franchise history that the team has started 0-2 with both losses coming at home. Of course, it doesn't help that on Friday, they didn't just have to compete with their opponent, the Phoenix Suns, but themselves.
"Dwight and AD had a miscue on a coverage and they talked it out," Lakers coach Frank Vogel told reporters after the loss. "But when you're getting your ass kicked, sometimes those conversations get heated. Those guys love each other. They talked it out. And that's going to happen from time to time. I'd rather our guys care than not care."
Howard, like Vogel, downplayed the incident after the game. "We squashed it right then and there," he said. "We just had a disagreement about something that was on the floor. We're both very passionate about winning. We didn't want to lose this game, so we're just passionate. We got it out the way. We're grown men. Things happen. But we are going to squash this little issue between me and him, and that's my brother, that's my teammate."
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Magic Johnson isn't as convinced. "The Lakers have a team issue and a basketball issue," he tweeted, and through two games, he has a point. It's still very early in the season, but thus far, the Lakers have had all of the offensive issues the basketball world expected with the addition of the non-shooting Russell Westbrook. They rank 24th on offense thus far thanks in part to his spacing issues, but perhaps more distressingly, they've fallen all the way to No. 17 defensively.
Defense has been the Lakers' calling card ever since Frank Vogel got hired. They ranked first on that end of the floor last season and maintained their excellence even after Davis and LeBron James got hurt. But thus far, with so many of the defenders that made that group special last season gone, the Lakers have been unable to establish a culture on that end of the floor. It has left them with nothing to fall back on early as they try to figure out how to score with so little space.
That's going to make things harder as all of these new players adjust to one another in the coming weeks and months. Fortunately, the Lakers have a remarkably easy schedule for the time being. That will help them work through some of these issues and develop some chemistry. If Friday's loss is any indication, they just don't have much of that right now.