The disappointed look on Magic Johnson’s face may have shown his true feelings. So did the moment when Johnson snapped his fingers in frustration.
As much as the Lakers are defined by winning, did he have conflicted feelings when they ended the season winning five of their last six games? After all, that gave the Lakers (26-56) the NBA’s third-worst record, a note that may hurt their NBA lottery chances on May 16.
“I was saying, ‘Oh it’s good, but damn we’re winning,'” Johnson said laughing on ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live.’
The Lakers have a 46.9 percent chance of keeping their-top three protected pick otherwise owed to Philadelphia as part of the Steve Nash deal five years ago. The Lakers also have a 15.6 percent chance of jumping up to No. 1. Had the Lakers finished with the NBA’s second-worst record, though, they would have had a 55.8 percent chance of keeping the pick and 19.9 percent odds of going No. 1.
But Johnson then turned serious in between his chuckles.
“I wanted us to taste winning,” Johnson said. “We’ve been losing for four years. I wanted the guys to experience what it felt like to win. We’re going to carry that into next season. We have a young team. They were feeling good about winning.”
In order to win, the Lakers will also have to wrestle with another variable. To what extent do they retain their young core while pursuing to upgrade their roster? Johnson may have tipped his hand on Indiana forward Paul George. The Lakers will have to weigh the value between trading for him now at the expense of some young assets versus waiting to sign him next summer as a free agent without any assurances.
Johnson cannot speak about other players specifically because of NBA tampering rules. But he all but confirmed George is a target, revealing how he might interact with him should they run into each other incidentally.
“We’re going to say hi because we know each other. I just can’t say, ‘I want you to come to the Lakers’ even thought I’m be winking,” Johnson said, smiling.