In lieu of the regular season, Laker Nation has decided to take you back through Laker history to recap important games, record-breaking performances and memorable news from the past 64 years of the franchise. We understand that it’s not the basketball you may have been hoping for, but for the time being, it’s the closest we’ll get to reading about the Lakers on a basketball court.
NOVEMBER 3, 1989
LA LAKERS 102 – DALLAS MAVERICKS 94
It was the first time in 20 years that the league had seen an NBA season without hall-of-fame center Kareem Abdul-Jabaar, and the first year since 1975 that the Lakers didn’t have him on their roster. After a season-long farewell tour that culminated in an NBA Finals loss, Abdul-Jabaar retired at 41 leaving behind a Lakers roster that was struggling to find its new identity.
Then-Lakers coach Pat Riley, in an attempt to fill the hole in the low post left by Abdul-Jabaar, had begun the season trying to establish a run-and-gun style that focused less on establishing an inside game and more on spreading out the half-court offense. While this move was partially motivated by the success of the Showtime Lakers, at the start of the 1989-90 NBA season, the Lakers starting lineup had no player taller than 6’10″.
Though this Laker team was athletic, it was one that could be easily exploited in a half-court offense by a team such as the Dallas Mavericks, a team that featured two seven-footers in its starting lineup.
With Abdul-Jabaar gone, the Lakers would turn to stars Magic Johnson and James Worthy for production, though all five starters would score in the double digits.Laker rookie Vlade Divac would make his NBA debut, his much-needed 7’1″ frame pulling down eight rebounds in 15 minutes of play, though his three traveling violations would show his youth and inexperience.
When a 19-point fourth quarter lead would dwindle to six points in the final four minutes, Johnson would have to close out the game for the Lakers, scoring six of their final 10 points and assisting on another two. Lacking an experienced true center, the Johnson-led Lakers would never reach the same level of success as they had with Abdul-Jabaar, losing their sole post-Abdul-Jabaar NBA Finals to Chicago in 1991.