Brandon Ingram finds drive to improve for Lakers

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREUCLA alum Kenny Clark signs four-year contract extension with Packers“He was aggressive and didn’t shy away from contact,” Randle said. “BI is a buck 20 (actually 190) but he is going up and dunking on people. It shows the potential he has. He’s going to be great for a long time.”As a result, Ingram averaged 13.5 points on 51.7 percent shooting and 4.1 rebounds through 11 starts in March, a sharp increase from the 8.2 points per game he averaged on a 37.1 percent clip in previous months. As for his increased dunks and drives to the rim, Ingram believed those moves “just shows how much more comfortable I got on the basketball floor.”“I knew I was going to get better throughout the months of this season,” Ingram said. “It’s all mental. When you want to play basketball and you get paid for playing basketball, you want to do it every single day. I don’t think I’ll be tired of doing it.”The Lakers did not appear tired with complementing Ingram, either.“Brandon really got better,” Brewer said. “He’s a rookie so he works his butt off. At the end of the year, you’ve seen he started to be more aggressive. I think he’s going to have a big year next year.” Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error EL SEGUNDO >> With the ball in his hands and a screen set for him, Lakers rookie forward Brandon Ingram performed a series of moves that had not always defined his mindset.He looked to score instead of worrying about others. He charged toward the lane without appearing intimidated a defender might knock around his 6-foot-9, 190-pound frame. He then soared over New Orleans rookie forward Cheick Diallo, threw down a one-handed dunk over him and then let out his emotions.“When he jumped to block it, (Ingram) was still above him,” marveled Lakers forward Larry Nance Jr., who knows a thing or two about dunking. “He’s got those go-go gadget arms. It doesn’t even look like he’s jumping that high, but his arm is two feet above the rim.”That play represented more than just a highlight reel toward the end of the Lakers’ 2016-17 season. It showcased Ingram’s aggressiveness, a trait that explained why Nance, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, Nick Young, Corey Brewer and Tyler Ennis singled out Ingram as the young core’s most improved player.center_img The Lakers did not always offer such praise toward Ingram so freely. Though Ingram admitted having ambitions to win the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award, he hardly posted the kind of numbers warranted for consideration. Although the Lakers liked his work ethic, attitude and fundamentally sound game, Ingram entered the NBA All-Star break ranking seventh in his rookie class in scoring (8.0) and 18th in field-goal percentage (38.6).During those times, Clarkson said he often teased Ingram on how he attacked the basket. As Clarkson recalled, “he used to look like a string bean and double pump it a lot of times when he’s going to the rim trying to finish.” Though Ingram downplayed feeling intimidated with his skinny frame, he admitted some fear in facing the likes of Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard did.“Before when you come into the league, you kind of show a little too much respect to some of those stars in the league,” Ingram said. “I definitely thought I could attack them. I definitely try to get some respect in this league and show how I’m going to come back.”So with Ingram in New Orleans for the Rising Stars Challenge as part of NBA All-Star weekend, he spent his free time reflecting on the good and the bad.He began realizing his reluctance to become a vocal leader did not necessarily stem from his publicly stoic demeanor.“It’s always hard,” Ingram said. “You’re the rookie that comes in. These guys up here have been in this league so long. So many of the stuff you tell them, they already know.”He further studied NBA stars, such as Durant and Leonard, on how they dissect defenses.“They’re going to attack you every chance they get,” Ingram said. “The common factor is they all attack you in different ways. They definitely have a lot of things in their tool box.”Ingram also found comfort in his previously steady growth. Lakers coach Luke Walton had assigned him various responsibilities as a ball-handling guard, a wing defender and post player. The Lakers liked that Ingram frequently worked with assistant coach Brian Keefe in practice and pregame workouts to improve the consistency in his shooting and finishing. In early February, Walton had also named Ingram a definitive starter over veteran Luol Deng to accelerate his development.So, Ingram returned determined to build off of that foundation.“I’ve gotten more confident, especially in the months of January and after All-Star a little bit,” Ingram said. “It all took repetition. You have to put up a certain amount of shots before you definitely feel comfortable in this league. I became more vocal on the basketball court. When the mentality is there and the focus is there, you shock yourself a little bit.”The Lakers were not shocked with Ingram’s growth. They selected him No. 2 in the 2016 NBA draft for a reason. But after observing Ingram had “a rough time” to open the season, Nance then saw Ingram as “a completely different dude on the court and off the court.”“A switch went off,” Nance said. “There was not anybody who could guard him.”With Ingram simply describing his rookie season as “OK” given the Lakers’ third-worst NBA record (26-56), he and the Lakers’ front office outlined an extensive to-do list this summer. He plans to train with Kobe Bryant, compete in Summer League and bulk up in the weight room. But with every drive to the basket he made, Ingram gave his teammates stronger confidence about his future.“You see toward the end of the year he’s going to the rack strong and keeping the ball high, finishing and dunking on people,” Clarkson said. “He’s going to be a great player in this league once he gets it going.”last_img read more