There were so many people standing and taking photos with their phones, I couldn't see the Lakers warming up.
There were so many people cheering the procession of All-Stars hopping and dancing on to the floor, I couldn't hear the Lakers introductions.
The great team is a confused team. The collection of All-Stars is all over the map. The Princeton offense is slower than ivy. The Brown defense is red-faced.
The team supposedly sprinting for the NBA Finals began its season wading through a nightmare Tuesday in a 99-91 loss to the Dallas Mavericks.
We all knew that the integrating of the new players and system would be a process. But who knew that process would begin with such a Vaudevillian splat?
When the game began, the arena was blanketed in the unreal feeling of seeing Steve Nash and Dwight Howard in Lakers uniforms. By the time it ended, it was unreal to have seen them both so uncomfortable.
Nash had four assists and missed six of nine shots. Howard fouled out after making just three of 14 free throws.
The Lakers' starting lineup had 33 combined All-Star selections, the Mavericks had six, yet the Lakers fell behind at halftime and never made a serious run.
The most energy they showed came later, from Howard, as he stood in front of his locker acting amazed that anybody would be worried.
"Embarrassed? I've played home openers where we've lost by 30 points . . . yeah, really,'' he said, adding, "I'm sure everyone in Laker nation wants us to win every game, but it takes time.''
Armed with the highest hopes in recent Lakers history, Staples Center fans gave their team all of three quarters Tuesday before they started booing.
Early in the fourth quarter, fans who had given huge ovations for Nash and Howard were chanting for the return to the game of Kobe Bryant.
Midway through the fourth quarter, one brave fan stood and shouted what many fans were surely thinking — she called for the firing of Mike Brown.
By the time the game ended, sometime after tiny Rodrigue Beaubois had crawled behind Howard for an offensive rebound and basket, many of the fans had angrily turned their backs and walked away.
That clutter of slumped gold jerseys on the floor was a team that had committed 14 turnovers, made just 39% of its free throws — welcome Superman! — and hit just three of 13 three-point attempts.
And, oh yeah, the Lakers bench was outscored by the Mavericks bench, 37-17.
The loss has certain mitigating factors. The Lakers starters had played together for only one preseason game. Howard is still recovering from April back surgery. Bryant missed the previous five practices with a foot injury.
But then the loss also illuminated certain real fears. What if this new Princeton offense — suggested by Bryant — isn't right for this team? With a great point guard like Nash, why not switch to a simple pick-and-roll offense? Heck, why not just go back to the triangle?
"You have to be in the right spots to run the offense the right way, but we'll get it,'' said Howard "We have confidence in each other, in our coaches and the offense that they're running.''