Brandon Ingram already appears to be more than on his way to being an incredible player. With LeBron James sitting on the bench for the Los Angeles Lakers in the second half, Ingram showed off his scoring prowess and tantalizing defensive potential as he led the Lakers past the Sacramento Kings and to their first preseason win of the year, scoring 31 points and snatching 10 rebounds in the process.
That’s impressive stuff from Ingram, and it led James to voice his belief in his 21-year-old co-star of the win in his walk-off interview on Spectrum Sportsnet following the game:
"This is the year for him, I believe in him... Every big shot we needed, every big play we needed he made down the stretch, and I love seeing his growth"- LeBron on Ingram (via @SpectrumSN)— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) October 5, 2018
In the locker room after the game, James added to that. He doesn’t just “love seeing” Ingram grow. He wants to help with the process.
”It’s growing more and more every day,” James said of his relationship with Ingram. “He’s looking for the next opportunity to make the jump in his third year, so there’s a lot of upside in that kid and I’m happy to try to give him as much as I can.”
James wanting to help Ingram is something that has been widely — and fairly, given the praise James has showered Ingram with — speculated about, but this is the first time James has expressly voiced a desire to pass on his knowledge to the third-year wing.
But James also doesn’t see Ingram as just a potential mentee. After three impressive preseason games that have shown just how effective Ingram can be alongside James, he sees him as someone who can help the Lakers on the path back to their former glory that James is trying to lead them down.
“He’s a very special talent and I’m definitely happy to have him on our side,” James said.
For Ingram, who grew up during James’ (seemingly endless) prime, hearing these types of things from the greatest player on the planet has to be surreal, but he’s also not letting it make him complacent.
“For him to say that is an extreme compliment,” Ingram said. “It makes you want to keep going. I don’t think I want to stop here.”
And he won’t, because as Ingram says, his goals for himself are larger than James’ could ever be.
“My expectation is way higher than anyone’s expectation,” Ingram said.
It’s that type of work ethic and relentless drive to be great that have led so many to have such high praise for Ingram over the years he’s been in the league, and they’re qualities James sees as well.
”He’s a great kid. He works hard. Extremely hard, and he has a lot of talent and he believes in his abilities,” James said, but he also doesn’t want to let expectations get out of hand for a player who is only in his third year.
James knows that mining one’s full potential takes time, and he isn’t sure what the next step for Ingram is.
“We’ll see what the next jump is, but none of us are prophets, we don’t know,” James said.
Still, James has walked the road to greatness, and he sees Ingram on a similar path to hitting his own potential.
”He’s on course. He’s 21 years old and it’s his third year in the league. He’s on course,” James said.
And after a short training camp and three preseason games, James thinking Ingram is “on course” is just about the best outcome the Lakers could have asked for.
You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.