EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — As much as the new-look Los Angeles Lakers have preached patience, a winless exhibition slate, a handful of injuries and now an 0-2 start to the regular season — that included tensions boiling over in Friday’s loss to the Phoenix Suns — would test any team’s resolve.
Yet Russell Westbrook, the former league MVP that Los Angeles moved heaven and earth to acquire in the offseason, said he is just fine with the uncomfortable orbit the Lakers currently find themselves in.
“I’m OK with adversity, honestly,” Westbrook said Saturday after the team gathered for a film session. “I never panic throughout the course of a season. Especially at the start of the season. There’s really no need to. The season is too long and nobody is winning nothing right now.
“Yes, it’s good to get off to a good start and feel good about yourself, but especially me personally, I like to make sure that I’m — as the season goes on — I’m constantly just getting better and better and better as the season prolongs. And making sure that my team and my teammates are getting better as well as we all get comfortable with each other.”
Rajon Rondo called Saturday’s film review the longest since this group came together — “Rightfully so,” he said — and added that breaking down game tape as a unit was vital to coach Frank Vogel’s success in guiding L.A. to the championship two seasons ago, as it builds a foundation for accountability and involvement.
“If Frank is the only one in the room talking, he says we’re doing something wrong,” Rondo said. “So, a lot of people are talking — the coaches, to the players, we go back and forth. Not necessarily arguing, chattering, but to understand one another because an open dialogue is best for us to develop quick chemistry on the court.”Vogel called the meeting “very healthy” ahead of Sunday’s home game against the Memphis Grizzlies.
“A lot of conversation,” Vogel said. “A couple really helpful discussions to just try to bring some clarity to some of the coverages that we’re breaking down on. … Today was a great growth day for us.”
There was a lot to dissect from the Suns loss. Los Angeles shot just 39.5% as a team as it missed 12 layups while being outscored 52-26 in the paint and its defense gave up a staggering 71 points over the second and third quarters to Phoenix, which finished the game shooting 48.8% as a team.
“Guys are figuring out how to run with me, and play a little faster. I’m figuring out how to do other things and moving off the ball,” explained Westbrook, who averaged 11.5 points on 35.7% shooting through the first two games. “I’m OK with the struggle of figuring it out and making sure we are putting ourselves in the position to do the right things so that ultimately at the end of the year we can be playing our best basketball.”
The team dismissed any lingering impact from the disagreement between Dwight Howard and Anthony Davis shortly before halftime on Friday that required the two big men to be separated.
“It’s over with and we move on to the next game,” Westbrook said.
However, another altercation during the Suns game — this one between Rondo and a courtside fan late in the third quarter — was described with further detail.Rondo, who declined to speak to reporters following the loss, addressed the incident for the first time but would not share exactly what the fan said to him, only that it was enough for the point guard to want to “get the guy out of the game.”
“It doesn’t really matter what he said,” Rondo said. “He didn’t threaten me. I didn’t threaten him. Exchanging words. Got him out of the game.”
When Rondo pointed at the fan to gesture to the referee to intervene, it appeared he formed his left hand in the shape of a gun. After Rondo held his hand near the fan’s face, pressing his thumb down in what could be construed as mimicking a trigger, the fan pushed Rondo’s away and Staples Center security promptly removed him from the arena.
When asked if that was his intent to present his hand as a gun, Rondo said, “No.”