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NBA legend Magic Johnson points finger at load management after Lakers’ early playoff exit

The Los Angeles Lakers have struggled against the Denver Nuggets in the playoffs over the past couple of years.

Denver swept Los Angeles in last season’s Western Conference Finals and have now eliminated the Lakers in the first round of this year’s playoffs. While the Lakers managed to avoid a four-game sweep this year, Los Angeles was largely overwhelmed by the defending NBA champions.

Nuggets star Jamal Murray’s late-game heroics, which were marred by controversy, and Lakers forward Anthony Davis’ injury in Game 5 are just some of the reasons Denver won the series.

But NBA legend Magic Johnson pointed to what he believes is the primary reason his former team was eliminated during the first round of the playoffs: load management.


“The Lakers have nobody but themselves to blame. They wouldn’t have been in the play-in game or finished as a 7th seed this season if they hadn’t lost too many games because of load management,” Johnson wrote on X, formerly Twitter.


The Lakers got off to a slow start in the regular season, which ultimately resulted in the team’s NBA Play-In tournament berth. But the Lakers’ two biggest stars did not appear to sit out of games to simply rest, as Johnson suggested.

Magic Johnson speaks on stage

LeBron James, 39, played in almost every game down the stretch, only sitting out three games after March 1 despite dealing with a nagging ankle injury. Meanwhile, Davis played in all but two games over that same time period.

Furthermore, six different players on the Lakers roster appeared in 70 games or more over the course of the 2023-2024 season.

James finished Game 5 with 30 points in 44 minutes. The Lakers now head into an offseason riddled with uncertainty. James has spent the past six seasons of his storied career in Los Angeles, but after Monday’s loss he was noncommittal about his future with the franchise.

LeBron James dunks

“I’m not going to answer that,” James told reporters after he was asked if he believed he had played his last game in a Lakers uniform.

“Haven’t given it much thought,” he said when asked what he’ll consider when making a decision about his 22nd NBA season. “Obviously, at some point I’ll sit down with Rich, my agent, and sit down with my family and see what’s best for my career. We’ll cross that when we need to.”

According to ESPN, James has a June 29 deadline to decide whether to opt into the final year of his contract. If James ends up opting out, he would become an unrestricted free agent for the first time since 2018.

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