I love it when a plan begins to come together. And while George Peppard wasn’t referring to the Lakers, it does seem as if this LA squad is beginning to look more like the A-Team the front office envisioned as they were piecing the roster together over the past several seasons.
After an unexpectedly hot start, which admittedly only meant a 10-10 record, the team had a rough go of things in December finding themselves sitting at 12-24 when the calendar refreshed for ’17. They’ve looked much better since then, going 3-2 with one of the losses being in Portland, where it’s actually legally forbidden for the Lakers to get a victory. So I guess we can’t get too mad about that one. Damn state rights.
One of the main reasons for the turnaround? This kid named Brandon Ingram, who is starting to look like the No. 2 overall pick the Lakers thought they were getting when they selected him out of Duke last June. Last Friday, Ingram put in a career-high 17 points vs. Miami. He tied that mark on Sunday against Orlando. Ingram’s development is becoming more and more apparent, as the wiry teenager continues to adjust to life in a league of grown ass men.
Ingram’s work ethic has been another point of emphasis, further endearing himself to legions of Laker fans. When he’s not sleeping, he’s playing basketball. In fact, he’s playing so much basketball that he’s running out of places to play said basketball. The more we see and hear about Brandon Ingram, the higher our anticipation for his future grows. Sitting here, 41 games into his career, I would say things are right on schedule.
While Ingram’s development has certainly been one of the reasons for the team’s recent success, it’s been the seemingly overnight evolution of Nick Young from occasionally-lovable-chucker to always-lovable-and-suddenly-dependable-wing-scorer-and-outside-shooter that has really been such an unexpected treat. His current PER of 15.7 is the second highest he’s ever tallied. He’s making 43 percent of his three-point attempts while shooting 45 percent overall. He’s played with energy and intensity, a far cry from the maligned journeyman that couldn’t find a coach willing to tolerate his antics for the majority of his career.
I asked Twitter who they were more impressed with this season, Nick Young or Lou Williams (who is probably the main reason this team didn’t go completely nuclear in December after losing a few key guys to injury). It wasn’t even close.
Hey #Lakers fans - who has impressed you more this season for LA?— Daniel Buerge (@danielbuergeLA) January 9, 2017
Not only that, as the mentions started coming in, fans continued to praise Young for his impressive career 180.
Both have been great but Nick's transformation has been something to behold. Legitimate excitement on both ends of the court almost nightly. https://t.co/ieiFremWhG— Grant Goldberg (@GrantGoldberg) January 9, 2017
@danielbuergeLA Nick's defense has been outstanding. Total surprise. We knew what Lou was capable of.— Alvin Alvarez (@KSFantastic) January 9, 2017
Nothing against Lou, who draws three fouls eating lunch each afternoon, but I find myself inclined to agree with the masses here; what Uncle P managed to do has completely changed the dynamic of this team. It’s added an element of consistency (!), confidence (no surprise) and leadership (!) that previously wasn’t there.
We’ve said before that the win-loss record isn’t the biggest concern this season — that we’re hoping to see other success metrics tell us where this team currently stands and the direction they are heading. These small developments — Ingram’s on-court growth, Swaggy’s adoption of stability and defensive determination — are the types of things we’re looking for. These are the signs that things are going well. The proof that things are beginning to turn in the right direction, even when it doesn’t always feel like it.
Sometimes it’s hard to see the forest through the trees.
Thankfully in LA the palms make that a little less difficult.