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Magic Johnson says he was conflicted about the Lakers’ late-season winning streak

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He didn’t quite admit to being on #TeamTank, but he only kind of denied it.

NBA: Utah Jazz at Los Angeles Lakers Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers looked all-but-assured to finish with the second-worst overall record in the NBA until a late-season 5-5 stretch helped catapult them past the Phoenix Suns in the standings.

In a vacuum, the team’s young core showing the ability to string together some success at the NBA level would be a good thing, but the stint cost them the 55.8 percent chance to keep their top-three protected overall pick they would have received if they had finished with the second-worst record in the NBA.

They will now enter the lottery with a 46.9 percent chance to keep their first-rounder.

Lakers President Magic Johnson would surely like the team to not send their pick to the Philadelphia 76ers, and he spoke about the conflicting feelings he had watching his young players succeed, but at the same time send several lottery balls down the drain.

“I was saying, ‘Oh, it’s good, but damn, we’re winning’ [laughs]. No, I wanted us to taste winning,” Johnson told Jimmy Kimmel (as transcribed by Robby Kalland of UPROXX). “We’ve been losing for four years. I wanted the guys to experience what it felt like to win, because if you never get that feeling…you’ll never know how it feels. So we’re going to carry that into next season.”

Johnson’s joke probably revealed at least a small bit of truth. Of course he wants the team to keep their first-rounder, and by extension the chance to select another promising young player in a loaded draft.

At the same time, it was probably also enjoyable for Johnson and the rest of the Lakers’ front office to watch their young core show promise as they closed out the season.

It’s impossible to know how he should have felt until the Lakers’ find out if they lost their pick or not, but these comments were the latest example of the waters Johnson is going to have to learn to navigate as he adjusts to life as an executive.

Harrison Faigen is co-host of the Locked on Lakers podcast (subscribe here), and you can follow him on Twitter at @hmfaigen.