Before the Los Angeles Lakers climbed their way back to the top of the NBA, they struggled mightily, and not just on the court. The tipping point came during the 2018-19 season, when they missed the NBA playoffs despite having LeBron James on their roster. What was supposed to be the start of something good turned out to be the end of an unsuccessful era.
Brandon Ingram talked about that dreadful season on “The Old Man & The Three” podcast with his new teammate, JJ Redick, and he said that he knew right away that things were going to be bad — if not for the team, then for him:
“Granted, I haven’t been in the league very long, but I just felt like things were not normal. Like, every day, I would hear former players from the Lakers be like, ‘this is not how things are supposed to go. You’re going to see how an organization is supposed to be ran ...
“I never let outside noise or anything get to me because I’m so prepared for everything, but there was one game where I was like, ‘this is more than basketball. This is an action move we’re in right now.’ Everybody’s posing for the cameras, everybody knows where the camera’s on, so it was important for me to block out all the negativity, everything’s that not going into the work of basketball.”
Ingram said he was able to stay focused on basketball with the help of his personal trainer, but apparently his teammates had a harder time keeping their head down, especially when they started seeing their names in trade rumors:
“Other guys around me, it killed them. Like, it killed them. Every day, you wake up and see your name on Twitter — and the guys around me, they love Twitter. Like, they love searching and putting in they names. And to see to that … we’d come to the gym, we’d come to practice, and the energy would be just totally off. It didn’t seem like nobody wanted to play. It was a whirlwind.”
The trade rumors probably hit the Lakers’ locker room harder because of how young the players that went through it were, but there were clearly things that could have been done to soften the blow that the team didn’t do. Plus, it sounds like the trade rumors were just one of the many things they had to deal with that season. Things were bad, and the players noticed.
Thankfully, the Lakers were able to put that behind them and build a culture that allowed them to stick together through one of the most challenging seasons in NBA history. Whether that’s a product of the new leadership in the organization, or the makeup of the roster, they have to be happy with where they’re at.
As for Ingram, he said he’s been able to focus on basketball in New Orleans, and it’s showed in the way he’s played. Last season, Ingram earned his first All-Star appearance by averaging 23.8 points, 6.1 rebounds, 4.2 assists and a steal per game. Sometimes a change of scenery is all that’s needed.
Would it have been nice to see the baby Lakers in a postseason setting? Of course, but now it feels like everything worked out the way it was supposed to — the good and the bad.