Kareem Abdul-Jabbar blames poor start to season for Lakers, says they looked ‘gassed’ in playoffs

Peter Dewey
4 Min Read

Los Angeles Lakers legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar believes that the Lakers’ poor start to the season was a reason that they came up short in the playoffs.

The Lakers made the postseason as the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference, but they were eventually swept in the Western Conference Finals against the Denver Nuggets.

Abdul-Jabbar believes that the team was “gassed” by the end of the season.

“I felt that if they hadn’t started out so bad that they could’ve done a lot better. They seemed like at the end of the season, they were kinda gassed, you know?” Abdul-Jabbar said. “But they really did a great job of finding a new identity and going out and doing very well. They just missed making it to the Finals. They should be proud of that. I think it’s a really neat achievement.”

The legend’s comments make a lot of sense, as the Lakers started off the season by losing 10 of their first 12 games.

The slow start, and injuries to Anthony Davis and LeBron James, made it hard for the Lakers to even get into the playoffs, but they did make a nice late-season push.

The Lakers’ turnaround really took full form around the trade deadline when the team brought in D’Angelo Russell, Rui Hachimura, Jarred Vanderbilt, Malik Beasley and Mo Bamba.

The infusion of talent allowed the Lakers to go on a run to end the season. The team was 27-32 at the All-Star break, but the Lakers went on to finish the season with a 43-39 record, winning 16 of their last 23 games.

In the playoffs, Los Angeles knocked off the No. 2-seeded Memphis Grizzlies in six games and the No. 6-seeded Golden State Warriors in six games to advance to the Western Conference Finals.

That’s where the playoff run ended for Los Angeles, as it failed to win a game against Denver. Still, the Lakers made an impressive run given where they were prior to making several trades.

Had the team gotten off to a better start, it may have been able to rest players like James – who dealt with a foot injury for a good chunk of the season – and Davis down the stretch to prepare them for the playoffs.

Instead, the Lakers had to treat nearly every game as if it was a must-win scenario in order to get the best spot possible for playoff seeding. The team also wanted to avoid falling out of the No. 7 or No. 8 spot in the play-in tournament standings so it could have two chances to win one game and advance to the playoffs.

Hopefully for Lakers fans, the team will get off to a better start in the 2023-24 campaign, especially if it keeps the same roster intact this offseason.

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Peter is a graduate of Quinnipiac University where he covered the MAAC and college basketball for three years. He has worked for NBC Sports, the Connecticut Sun and the Meriden Record-Journal covering basketball and other major sports. Follow him on Twitter @peterdewey2.