As easily as the Lakers said hello to Brandon Ingram, a final goodbye was given to Kobe Bryant.
The draft came and went, sweeping in two new teenagers for the Lakers, neither of whom were born when Bryant was plucked out of high school in 1996.
The page turns quickly, time waits for no one, and Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak said some nice things about Bryant before the future, and the NBA draft, dominated Thursday at the team’s El Segundo training facility.
“We’re excited. Despite the fact that we’re losing an icon that’s been with us for 20 years, this is a new chapter for us moving forward,” Kupchak said, adding the Lakers would “miss Kobe to no end.”
“We have to move on and we have a new coach, we’re moving into a new facility about two blocks from here that’s going to make this facility look tiny. Look, Brandon needs to work, needs to get stronger, needs to show progress as quick as possible, but I think the other players are ahead of schedule.”
That would be Brandon Ingram, the Duke small forward the Lakers selected with the second overall pick. They also drafted Croatian center Ivica Zubac with the 32nd overall pick.
Two comparisons to NBA All-Stars were floated toward the Atlantic Coast Conference freshman of the year. Both were admittedly premature but they took place anyway.
The first came from his new coach in surprising context.
Luke Walton wants to install an offense like the one that launched the Golden State Warriors to consecutive NBA Finals trips.
There’s no Stephen Curry or Klay Thompson on the Lakers’ roster but there’s an 18-year-old Ingram with a Warriors-like talent, Walton said.
The other similarity was supplied by Kupchak, in response to the ultra-thin Ingram having the same frame as Kevin Durant.
“I can see why people would make the comparison,” Kupchak said. “I think they’re both gifted players. If you looked at Kevin in college, the similarities are striking in terms of size and body build and body type. But beyond that Brandon has a long, long way to go, he has a lot of work in front of him. Having said that, we’re ecstatic to have him.”
In a draft widely considered to have two top prospects — Ingram and Louisiana State freshman forward Ben Simmons — the Lakers listened to teams’ offers for the second pick but found nothing to seriously consider.
They grabbed someone with a forward’s body type and a guard’s outside touch with ballhandling skills.
Ingram thought he connected when he dined with the Lakers on consecutive nights this month in El Segundo.
“I just thought it was a rich organization,” he said Thursday. “I know when I first came in I told them I wanted an organization that was based off of family. I just wanted to be another great player who came from there.”
He wanted to wear No. 13, which his older brother wore in high school. It belongs to Wilt Chamberlain and hangs near the Staples Center ceiling.
It was a small issue, one of few encountered on a draft night the Lakers needed after their worst season ever. The euphoria from the 19-year-old Zubac was a pretty good descriptor of everything that took place.
It’s not even known whether the 7-footer will make the roster or play overseas next season but he definitely seems excited.
“From the day I started playing basketball, the Lakers were my favorite team, and Kobe was my favorite player,” Zubac said. “I cannot believe this is happening. I’m so happy right now.”