LAS VEGAS- The lanky teenager came running out of the tunnel on to the court for warm-ups, but caught himself and grinned. Brandon Ingram's teammates had gotten him with a classic rookie prank, sending him out onto the court all on his own.
“Yeah [I got pranked],” Ingram acknowledged with a smile when asked about the moment.“They said ‘rookie, you got it first,’ I ran out, I thought someone was behind me. I looked back, and all I could do was smile.”
Ingram may have had the first smile of the night, but he certainly didn’t have the last in the Los Angeles Lakers’ 85-65 win over the New Orleans Pelicans in their first game of Las Vegas Summer League.
The Lakers’ little joke at Ingram’s expense was one of the few times the second-overall pick looked like a rookie in his debut. Ingram ignited a Lakers-heavy crowd, his smooth game looking like an instant fit for the NBA.
Ingram scored 12 points on nine shots and looked comfortable at the NBA level already, impressing fans and his new teammates with a combination of smooth scoring, deflections, and weak-side blocks.
“Kid can play,” said an impressed Larry Nance, Jr. “He can do it in a lot of different ways. Shooting, driving, dunks. He’s just extremely versatile, and I’m looking forward to playing with him.”
“He was aggressive, but he was just feeling the game out,” said D’Angelo Russell of the Lakers’ new second overall pick’s debut. “He didn’t really force anything, so I think it went pretty well.”
Just Ingram’s production would have been enough to call it a successful night for the Lakers, considering it was just the first game of summer league after all. However, he received some support from his teammates as well.
Russell stuffed the box score with 20 points on 12 shots with 11 rebounds and six assists in a controlled effort of his own. His fellow sophomore Nance, Jr. scored 11 points and grabbed 9 rebounds, and 32nd overall pick Ivica Zubac was surprisingly effective.
The raw 19-year old looked anything but, scoring 11 points on four shots, snatching five rebounds, and blocking three shots of his own. The last stat on that list helped him earn his preferred nickname, at least for a night.
"Zublocka," said Zubac of his preferred monicker. "My teammates [overseas] gave me that nickname."
His current teammates may not be giving him new nicknames, but Russell practically lit up and offered up an incredibly complimentary comparison when describing his new big man.
"Oh my God. I tell him all the time he reminds me of Marc Gasol," Russell said of Zubac. "A big fella with some sweetness to him, I guess. But he's really good, I don't think people know how good he is yet."
All of the mutual praise for each other highlighted that this Lakers rebuild won't be a solo effort. Brandon Ingram may have started his Lakers career alone, but the team's first night in Las Vegas left it looking set to continue alongside a capable group of talented young teammates.
All quotes obtained firsthand. You can follow this author on Twitter at @hmfaigen.