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Los Angeles Lakers’ Dwight Howard, Anthony Davis downplay scuffle



LOS ANGELES — The Lakers‘ rocky start to the season continued with teammates Anthony Davis and Dwight Howard getting involved in a heated exchange in the first half of Friday’s 115-105 loss to the Phoenix Suns.

Amid a 27-11 run by Phoenix to take a 13-point halftime lead, Howard and Davis had to be separated by teammates after the pair engaged in a verbal spat on the sideline.

“When you’re getting your ass kicked, sometimes those conversations get heated,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “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.”

With 3 minutes, 13 seconds remaining in the second quarter, following a Suns timeout, Davis confronted Howard, who was seated on the bench, prompting L.A.’s backup center to spring to his feet and meet Davis eye to eye.

As Howard approached, Davis grabbed Howard’s arms and pushed, causing Howard to lose his balance and fall back toward the bench. Malik Monk and Avery Bradley intervened, with Monk holding Howard and Bradley holding Davis. Tensions continued to boil over, with Davis pointing and jawing at Howard, before Rajon Rondo, LeBron James, Davis’ personal security guard and others attempted to placate the situation.

“We squashed it right then and there,” Howard said afterward. “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.”

Davis, who had 22 points and 14 rebounds, helping to cut a once 32-point lead by the Suns all the way down to nine late in the fourth quarter, also downplayed the dustup.

“It’s over with,” Davis said, explaining that the dispute was over failed execution on their pick-and-roll coverage. “After the situation happened, me and DH, we talked about it and we left it at that.”

Howard did not play in the second half, a coaching decision that Vogel explained as a chance to evaluate a smaller lineup, rather than a disciplinary action.

“We’re just trying to get it together,” Howard said. “This is our second game, our second real game. And we got to get it right. I know a lot of people are counting us out already. It’s early. Lot of people laughing at us and joking, but we going to get this thing together.”

Among the chorus of concerned onlookers was former Lakers great Magic Johnson, who took to Twitter to offer a blunt assessment of the state of the team.

James, who has seen his fair share of slow starts on teams with outsized expectations — going 8-7 out of the gates with the 2010-11 Miami Heat and 19-20 with the 2014-15 Cleveland Cavaliers — tried to put everything in perspective.

“Obviously the name of the game is to win ballgames. But there is a process along with building something to become the team that you want to become. And I know it firsthand,” he said. “I know the shortcomings that happens 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.”

The frustration didn’t end with Howard and Davis. Vogel was called for a technical foul for coming onto the court to argue a no-call with the referees. Davis was also called for a double technical foul, along with the Suns’ Deandre Ayton, for getting into it with one another.

And Rajon Rondo exchanged words with a fan who was sitting courtside late in the third quarter. After Rondo motioned toward the fan to notify the ref to intervene, the fan pushed Rondo’s hand away and was summarily ejected, with the fan and his companion promptly escorted out of the arena by Staples Center security.

“I think they’re three isolated situations,” Vogel said when a reporter suggested the Lakers let their emotions get the best of them as a group.

After a winless preseason, plus injuries to Talen Horton-Tucker, Trevor Ariza and Kendrick Nunn that will keep all of them out for a significant chunk of the early going and now an 0-2 start to the regular season, James stated the obvious when he said after Friday’s game, “We have no choice but to get better.”

However, the Lakers star did not take issue with the frustration his team showed on Friday, deeming it a byproduct of the standard that L.A. is looking to establish with its new roster.

“We’re competitors,” James said. “If you don’t get mad at certain things on the floor that you feel like you should have done better, then what are you here for? So we like that as a ball club. We like the adversity. I like the adversity, and I like it even more when two men on the team can come together and talk about it and move on.

“That’s what real men do. They don’t let it linger. They say what you got to say and you talk about it and you move on. And that’s what they did tonight.”

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Brooklyn Nets lose Kevin Durant to left knee sprain in second quarter vs. New Orleans Pelicans



NEW YORK — Brooklyn Nets star forward Kevin Durant injured his left knee during the second quarter of Saturday’s 120-105 win over the New Orleans Pelicans.

The team called it a left knee sprain, and it occurred with just under six minutes left in the quarter as Pelicans guard Herb Jones drove to the basket and collided with Nets guard Bruce Brown, who fell backwards into Durant, who was standing behind the play. Durant will undergo an MRI on Sunday, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Brooklyn’s leading scorer tried to stay in the game for a few moments, walking around, trying to loosen the knee up, but he walked over to the bench and checked himself out shortly thereafter. Durant went straight back to the locker room to be checked out.

Durant left Barclays Center about midway through the fourth quarter, walking with a limp on his way to a waiting car. He sounded hopeful that the injury wasn’t too serious, but was unsure at this point if he would be able to travel to Cleveland for Monday’s game against the Cavaliers.

Both Durant and the Nets now wait to see what the results of the MRI bring.

At halftime, with the Nets leading, 69-41, the team announced Durant would be out for the remainder of the game.

The injury overshadows what had been a strong return for the former MVP, who sat out Thursday’s loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder to rest. In 12 minutes on Saturday, Durant had 12 points, three rebounds and two assists before leaving the game.

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MRI shows no structural damage to knee of Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine



CHICAGO — Bulls guard Zach LaVine is not expected to miss significant time after an MRI on Saturday morning showed no structural damage to his left knee.

LaVine will be reevaluated early next week, the team said. LaVine did not travel with the team for its game Saturday night in Boston, and he will begin targeted therapy on his knee before the Bulls can offer a more definitive timeline.

“Well, obviously very optimistic and very grateful that it wasn’t something more,” Bulls coach Billy Donovan said. “That’s why they wanted to do the MRI, so he’ll continue to get therapy and we’ll re-evaluate him after a period of time. I don’t think it’s something that’s long-term, which is a good thing. So the biggest thing is how does he respond to therapy, treatment, those kinds of things.

“I think once they see how he responds to the therapy there will be a clearer view of when a return date will be possible.”

LaVine landed awkwardly while grabbing an offensive rebound during the first quarter of Friday’s game against the Golden State Warriors. He took an intentional foul on the next play before taking himself out of the game.

The Bulls were optimistic after Friday’s game that LaVine had avoided a major injury, but wanted to proceed with caution considering LaVine tore the ACL in the same knee in 2017 while playing for the Timberwolves.

In 38 games for Chicago this season, LaVine is averaging 24.9 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists while shooting 49% from the field.

In addition to LaVine, the Bulls will also be without Lonzo Ball on Saturday night as he is experiencing left knee soreness.

“(Saturday) morning when we met he still had some soreness in that joint and just wanted to rest him and have him sit out,” Donovan said. “I don’t want to say day-to-day … when I say day-to-day, it’s not like this game, and he’s back for Memphis. I think right now for the Memphis game he would be doubtful until he goes through treatment and therapy and see how he feels and if the soreness subsides and how quickly it subsides.”

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Dallas Mavericks get Kristaps Porzingis, coach Jason Kidd back from health and safety protocols



DALLAS — Mavericks power forward/center Kristaps Porzingis has cleared the NBA’s health and safety protocols after missing the past seven games and is expected to play in Saturday night’s home game against the Orlando Magic.

Mavericks coach Jason Kidd also cleared the protocols.

Dallas won six of the seven games missed by Porzingis, who is averaging 20.6 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game. The Mavs went 3-1 during Kidd’s absence, when defensive coordinator Sean Sweeney served as the acting head coach.

A source said Porzingis felt well in recent days and had been able to do individual workouts.

Porzingis’ clearance makes center Marquese Chriss ineligible to play for the Mavericks while he remains on a 10-day hardship deal that expires Thursday.

Sources said the Mavericks are considering their options to sign Chriss for the remainder of the season, which would require a move to create an open roster spot.

Chriss has played in 12 games over three 10-day deals with the Mavericks, averaging 6.8 points and 3.9 rebounds in 11.8 minutes per game while shooting 63% from the floor.

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