Before Brandon Ingram sprained his ankle, he was a good defensive player whose offensive deficiencies made him essentially a net-neutral presence. He’s always had the talent to be more than that, but his isolation-heavy approach to offense held him back, especially during time spent alongside LeBron James.
But over the last couple weeks that he’s been out, Ingram might have found a way to make himself a more positively impactful player on the offensive side of the court and, if he makes good on these observations, the Lakers would immediately become a much better team (via the Lakers’ official Twitter account):
“Every time I’m away from the team or away from the game I get a chance to observe and see what I can bring back, see where we need help,” Ingram said. “Just learning where I can still be efficient, where I can get my shots off, where I can be really, really good on the defensive end.”
It makes sense that every so often some time away from the thick of the game can help a player take a stop back and refocus on how better to fit in with their teammates. When you’re playing on an almost nightly basis, it can be hard to make any kind of sweeping adjustments as typical habits tend to take priority.
This isn’t to say it’s a good thing Ingram got hurt by any means whatsoever, only that he wouldn’t be the first athlete to ever credit a brief absence with a different approach to the game.
For Ingram, his bad habits have always started with his activity off the ball. It sounds like his time away might lead to an alternative approach:
“How good guys were moving without the basketball,” Ingram said of what he noticed about the team while he was out. “I think most of the time we’ve been getting the best shot for the team.
“I think we did really, really good beyond the 3-point line, so we’re shooting with more confidence. Of course on the defensive side, we’re getting better and better each game.”
Sometimes, it just takes watching someone else succeed to learn something about how best to utilize one’s own talents. Ingram has all the physical tools to be effective without the basketball. He just approached the game in a way that didn’t take advantage of those skills. Even he acknowledged that he’s better when he doesn’t dribble the air out of the ball.
“I think when I’m active and when I’m moving around, I think that’s when I play much better. Just cutting off the basketball and having a chance to attack not only for myself, but also for my teammates,” Ingram said.
If Ingram can figure some of this out and takes his own advice, his fit alongside LeBron James will make exponentially more sense. Thus far, the offense when both guys have been on the court has been mostly “your turn, my turn,” and, given how good they both are at creating for others or finishing when others create for them, a significant aspect of both their games has gone underutilized. Ingram noticing this trend and potentially altering course here is extremely exciting given how talented both he and James are.
We’ll see whether Ingram is able to implement the notes he’s taken while away. Hell, it isn’t yet a guarantee whether he’ll be active Friday night at all. But that he noticed these things is a great place to start, and the development of this part of his game could not take place without at least that.