Brandon Ingram played in his first game for the Los Angeles Lakers since spraining his ankle a few weeks ago on Friday, and while it wasn’t his highest-scoring of the season, it was easily one of his most impactful ones.
In 32 minutes against the New Orleans Pelicans, Ingram puts up 18 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists and a steal. However, arguably his most impressive stat in the box score was the fact that he posted a net rating of +19.4, which was the second-highest on the team and the third-highest of any player in the game.
Following the Lakers’ win, head coach Luke Walton praised Ingram for recognizing what the team needed from him upon his return.
“It was really nice having our guys back,” Walton said. “We still miss JaVale, but Brandon, I thought, made winning plays all game long whether it was setting a flare screen for Kuz at the top of the key for three in that fourth, or that rebound where he jumped up over three people, making the extra pass. I thought he did a really nice job of watching what the team has been doing while he’s been hurt and then coming in and playing that same way.”
Prior to making his comeback, Ingram said that he was going to make a conscious effort to be a bigger threat off of the ball, which he did successfully against the Pelicans. However, whenever he did have the ball in his hands, Ingram looked to keep the ball moving, something the Lakers as a team have done a better job of recently.
“That’s something they’ve done over this road trip, and even before they left when I was out, and I just tried to continue it,” Ingram said. “I didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes or try to go 1-on-1 or anything. I attacked when I could, but I mostly tried to move the basketball and get the best shot for our team.”
When the offense isn’t flowing, though, Ingram has no problem taking matters into his own hands.
“I’m looking to attack at all times, not only for my shot but for other guys,” Ingram said. “But in situations like that, when we need offense, I feel like I can be a guy that can be really, really good to go and get a basket.”
If Ingram can find that balance between scoring and creating for his teammates on a consistent basis, his fit with the Lakers — and more importantly, LeBron James — is less awkward.
Maybe that won’t guarantee that he won’t be traded before his rookie contract expires in 2020, but it would make him an asset rather than an expendable piece. For Ingram’s sake and the Lakers’, let’s hope this is just the beginning of the 21-year-old figuring things out.