LOS ANGELES • Anthony Davis and Dwight Howard had to be separated by teammates as the Los Angeles Lakers slumped to an eighth straight defeat after a 115-105 National Basketball Association loss to the Phoenix Suns on Friday.
The hosts, who had lost all six of their pre-season games, followed up their season-opening reverse to the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday with another disjointed performance at the Staples Centre.
This was not the start fans had envisioned when Los Angeles signed Russell Westbrook in the off-season to form a "Big Three" in a bid to win back the league title they meekly surrendered last season.
Tensions within the Lakers' new-look roster - which has already been hit by significant injuries to Talen Horton-Tucker, Trevor Ariza and Kendrick Nunn - boiled over in the first half when Davis and Howard squared up to each other on the bench during a time-out.
Several Lakers players, including LeBron James, scrambled to separate the duo, with Davis gesticulating as he was hustled away.
Coach Frank Vogel later played down the incident, which he said had arisen from a miscommunication on court.
"Dwight and AD had a miscue on a coverage and they talked it out," he said. "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 also later said he had settled his differences with Davis.
"We squashed it right then and there," he added. "We're both very passionate about winning and we didn't want to lose this game.
"But we're grown men, we got it out the way. We squashed it.
"There's no issue between me and him - that's my brother, my teammate."
James, who led the team with 25 points, also offered an excuse, telling ESPN: "I know the shortcomings that happen throughout when you're trying to build something special and that doesn't happen overnight.
"As much as you want it, you're going to get frustrated at times because you know what you're capable of. You know what the team can become capable of. But it just takes time."
However, those associated with the franchise did not buy the explanations.
Lakers great and former president of operations Magic Johnson tweeted: "Dwight Howard and AD got into a physical altercation on the bench… in my 42 years of being associated with the Lakers organisation, I've never seen something like that smh (shaking my head).
"The Lakers have a team issue and basketball issue."
The incident was, however, not the only bust-up concerning Lakers players.
Reserve guard Rajon Rondo had a run-in with a fan after making a finger-gun gesture following a spilt soft drink on the sidelines.
The man slapped Rondo's hand away before being quickly escorted away by security guards and was ejected from the game.
Elsewhere, Kevin Durant scored a triple-double (29 points, 12 assists, 15 rebounds) as the Brooklyn Nets punished a late collapse by the Philadelphia 76ers to bag their opening win of the season 114-109.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS