Brandon Ingram had one of his finest moments as an NBA player Wednesday night, dropping a career-high 32 points on his idol, and player he’s most often compared to, Kevin Durant. It was a striking game from Ingram, who credited having a clear head coming into the night as one of the reasons he was so locked in.
Whether it was splashing the open threes he took, finishing in transition, or dissecting the defense with sharp angles and strides, Ingram was a standout player even with the floor decked by the Golden State Warriors’ stars.
Durant admitted he liked what he saw from his protege as a mentor and spectator, but as a player it was frustrating watching Ingram drop 32 on his team.
“Just confidence,” Durant said of the biggest improvement he saw in Ingram following the game. “Luke put the ball in his hands and let him make plays, and all night he made plays and finished over the top. He made the J, he made good decisions.
“As a player playing against him I hate to see it, but if I was watching on TV I’d be really excited for him. You can see that he’s learning and getting better, and he’s growing as a player.”
KD has made himself very available as a guiding hand for Ingram, as detailed in an interesting piece from Sam Amick of USA TODAY Sports profiling what can be best described as the Lakers’ statement moral victory. Ingram admits that he looked at Durant’s game for inspiration, and that Durant is “always giving” him advice (via USA TODAY):
“I just saw myself (as) long, athletic, and could get to the rim (like Durant),” Ingram said. “He could shoot the ball. I used to shoot the ball a little bit, had the midrange game. He was one of the best scorers in college (at Texas). I watched him from Montrose Christian (High School), Oak Hill (High), everything.
“He tells me (that) if I need anything to talk to him. He’s always giving me advice, when I’ve been struggling coming into the preseason, and even last year. He’s just telling me to enjoy the process, to keep working, and keep building confidence every single day. That’s what I’m trying to do.”
Durant isn’t the only future Hall of Famer Ingram has turned to. Kobe Bryant is also picking up the phone when Ingram puts in the call.
Brandon hasn’t quite had the steak dinner experience that his teammate Kyle Kuzma did, he has “connected” with Kobe. Ingram credits a chat with Bryant during the All-Star break that was focused on studying film of Russell Westbrook as the turning point in his rookie season (via USA Today):
“No dinner, but we’ve connected on the phone a couple of times, where I’ve asked him about film,” Ingram said. “I called him before the OKC game last year (on Feb. 24), and that’s when the change of Magic and all the little stuff with (former general manager) Mitch Kupchak happened.
“I wanted to know about (Thunder point guard) Russell Westbrook, wanted to know how (Bryant) watched film and how I could affect the game. The first thing he said to me was defense. He didn’t even say anything about offense. He said defense, and Magic had told me the day before about how I could use my length to get to the basket, so I just put those two together. And I think after that OKC game, it changed my whole season around last year.”
Ingram is proving game-by-game that he’s climbing higher up his ladder of potential, and a game like he had against the Warriors is something everyone should bank in their memory. That was but a glimpse of what the barely-20-year-old may be once he truly finds his stride.