Brandon Ingram hasn’t spent much time measuring how he did his rookie year. That’s because to him the rookie year is just a small part of the picture. He’s thinking bigger and looking into the distance.
He knows clearly what he wants.
“Hopefully leading this Lakers team,” Ingram said. “You try to stay in the moment but you always have to keep that in the back of your head. How can I lead this team one day? What do I want to be? How can I be a leader on this floor? How can we win more games in the future? That’s all going through my head this offseason coming up.”
Ingram is entering his first real offseason as an NBA player. A year ago he was preparing for the draft after a year at Duke, knowing he’d likely be the first or second overall pick. It didn’t matter to him, he just wanted to be drafted. The Lakers drafted the skinny 6-foot-9 forward second overall.
Ingram went from coming off the bench, to starting only in case of injuries, to becoming the Lakers’ full-time starter on Feb. 6 at Madison Square Garden, when he scored 14 points with seven rebounds. All the while his playing time was among the most for rookies.
He learned how to use his length defensively and for effectively attacking the basket. He learned how to be more aggressive and assert himself. The 19-year-old stayed patient, knowing his body wasn’t yet what it would be when he fully matured.
He heard what expectations others had for him, and he wanted more.
“Honestly I don’t think I have,” Ingram said. “I’ve gotten better each and every game. I’ve gotten more comfortable, more confident, the repetitions that I’ve done in practice. I don’t think I have [shown my ceiling]. I think I can be a lot better of course as my body transforms, I’ll be even better adjusting to this game. I think things will come a lot easier for me.”
Shutting people up
Because of injuries, Luol Deng was active during the Lakers’ 82nd game of the season. But he knew that didn’t mean he’d play. He hasn’t played since Feb. 28.
“There’s a bitter taste in my mouth,” Deng said. “I just gotta come back with a chip on my shoulder. This year started to build a fire inside me. I don’t tell people a lot of times because I carry on not being as competitive, but I’ve got a lot of people to shut up next year.”
The Lakers signed Deng to a four-year deal worth $72 million this summer. That signing was made by the Lakers’ previous front office of general manager Mitch Kupchak and executive vice president of basketball operations Jim Buss. The two men have been replaced by general manager Rob Pelinka and president of basketball operations Magic Johnson.
Deng began the season as the starting small forward. Ingram replaced him in the lineup in February. Deng still saw minutes for most of the month. He averaged 7.6 points and 5.2 rebounds per game for the season. Deng averages 15 points per game for his career.
Not playing, merely watching, is a new feeling for Deng.
“It’s a feeling that I know a lot of people wouldn’t want to be in,” Deng said. “[Basketball is] something I really love.”
Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli