The Los Angeles Lakers invited the media world to their beautiful new training facility, christening a new era with a new home on media day. As it goes every year, the quotes are bountiful, pictures are everywhere and interviews are on every outlet.
There’s a clear elevated level of excitement around the team, higher than in years before despite adding a new lottery talent each of the last four seasons. Perhaps it’s the belief from the front office that they’ve finally got the right pieces in place coming from their back-to-back No. 2 picks.
There’s a reason every report coming out of Los Angeles as trade rumors heated up is that Brandon Ingram was untouchable, and that’s because he’s molding himself to become the leader the franchise needs both on and off the court,.
“Brandon Ingram, I think the word that comes to mind with him is leadership. He's one of our other leaders, and I think the way he's done it is he's fiercely competitive.
“He committed to being around here and working all summer long. Brandon's a quiet guy too. We have quiet leaders who lead by example, and I think that's a powerful way to lead. But I think the improvement that we've seen in his skills, his strength, and just his confidence level is unbelievable,” Pelinka said.
Lonzo Ball, on the other hand, had a very different take on the “quiet” Ingram.
“I thought he was quiet too, but he's not quiet at all, especially in the locker room or on the court. He's always talking now, so definitely an improvement for him,” Ball said of his new running mate
Ingram feels like he’s made strides in this area as well, an important nuance of his game that is necessary for the Lakers to move forward.
“I think I am [more vocal], especially in-between the lines. I think that comes along with confidence, too. Seeing these guys every single day, that helps out a lot. Just seeing them work and seeing what type of player they are.”
The idea of Brandon being a leader is a great one, but it’s a tall task he’s taking a swing at. The former Duke Blue Devil has been striving for greatness all summer, and as his 10-minute interview went on, it was clear how anxious he is to put his work to the test.
“I don't have a lot of words, I just want to get in-between these lines and show what we've been working on,” Ingram said.
That story about Luke Walton needing to shut down the gym that came out last week? It may have stemmed from Ingram’s relentless pursuit of improvement. Ingram confirmed Walton’s story during his media day press conference, and even let out that he may have still found a way to sneak in when the gym was supposed to be off limits.
As Ingram focused on his consistent grind in the Lakers’ new training facility all summer, he too noticed the change of culture that Pelinka and Magic Johnson have been focused on since Day 1. Having teammates buying-in to the new mentality as much as he is has helped Ingram find his place as a leader.
“I'm just here every day. It's all confidence and a change of mentality. I see a lot of guys every single morning, along with me, and it just makes me feel comfortable to see these guys showing the same attitude, and the same character, as me,” Ingram said.
All that work has led to great expectations from Magic, who once again reiterated that he believes Ingram will lead the Lakers in scoring in his sophomore season. Brandon has that same expectation of himself, and then some, too.
“It's something I expect out of myself, of course, along with being the leader on the defensive end. I know our point guard is going to help us score a lot of easy baskets this year. Just to have a guy like him is going to help us out a lot,” Ingram said.
While Lonzo may be busy leading the Lakers to scoring easy baskets, Ingram knows he has to be the focal point of the team improving defensively.
“Defensively we have to work a lot this year, but when we get that down I think defense turns into easy points.... Us trusting each other, us being connected. Of course individually we have some work to do, just moving laterally. I don't think everyone has the length I have to make up for it,” Ingram said.
These are the same points Coach Luke made on ESPN Los Angeles radio last week, where he discussed that the primary focus of training camp will be using defense to create offense.
For the first time in a long time, it seems as though the franchise is all on the same page together.
Ingram parroting all of the key points coming down from the top of the Lakers’ hierarchy is proof that they’re getting through to him. Now, much like Brandon, Lakers fans should be chomping at the bit to see his summer of hard work come to fruition on the basketball court.
*All quotes transcribed via Lakers.com