The undrafted guard the Sacramento Kings sent to inbound the ball might not have known what he was getting into. But looking at Brandon Ingram might have given him a clue.
At 6-foot-9, with a 7-3 wingspan, Ingram and his long, spindly arms and legs faced Cameron Reynolds with 41 seconds left and the Kings trailing by one. Ingram stuck his leg out to deflect the inbounds pass and knocked the ball out of bounds. He hit it with his arm on another attempt. And, finally, Ingram just grabbed the inbounds pass and dribbled all the way before being fouled.
The Lakers bench watched him, laughing and jumping.
“I can’t tell you what we really was talking about,” LeBron James said of the sideline celebration. “So yeah, I’m gonna run with your story.”
James appreciated Ingram’s overall game Thursday night, a 128-123 exhibition victory in which Ingram scored 31 points. James liked it so much that he praised the third-year forward during his television interview coming off the court and also in his postgame media session. In Ingram he sees a player who is on track to becoming an impactful player in the NBA.
“I know what I see in him and he’s looking for this opportunity to make this next jump in his third year,” James said. “So, it’s a lot of upside in that kid and I’m happy to try to give him as much as I can. … He works hard — extremely hard — and he has a lot of talent. And he believes in his ability, so we’ll see what the next jump is.”
Ingram and James had some time to chat in July, when James watched a Summer League game in Las Vegas, making his first public appearance in Lakers colors. James’ figure dwarfed the younger forward’s slight frame. Their relationship and chemistry will be critical to the Lakers’ future.
Already Ingram is seeing the benefits of being James’ teammate.
“He takes so much attention; I can be way more efficient in scoring,” Ingram said. “And then energy on the defensive end, guarding guys in the passing lane, just trying to start our offense with defense.”
The example James sets means something to Ingram too. He said he feels comfortable with his new teammate because James knows where everyone is supposed to be and helps them get there.
That James sees a lot in Ingram doesn’t add pressure, the former second overall pick said. He acknowledged that a compliment from James means a lot, with a caveat.
“It makes you want to keep going; I don’t think I want to stop here,” Ingram said. “And like I said, my expectations are way higher than anyone’s expectations.”
Simon out with pneumonia
Lakers assistant coach Miles Simon was diagnosed with pneumonia and will miss Saturday’s game against the Clippers in Anaheim. Simon had complained of chest tightness and was transported on a stretcher through the hallways of Staples Center after Thursday’s game. Simon will be considered day to day as he recovers.
The Lakers hired Simon last year as a player development coach. He worked closely with point guard Lonzo Ball during his rookie season.
Simon played college basketball at Arizona but finished school before Luke Walton arrived in Tucson. He also served as an assistant coach for Arizona from 2005 to 2008 and worked as a television analyst.
The Lakers had a few hiccups Thursday night that annoyed Walton.
“Three things we talked about before games: screening, we talked about not turning the ball over and not fouling,” Walton said after the game. “And I don’t have official stat sheets because we didn’t have them all night so maybe I’m wrong and I will watch the video tonight, but we were not good at any of those tonight. We have to get a lot better in this next week or however long we got left until the start of the season.”
The Lakers committed 25 fouls, which paled in comparison to the Kings’ 44. Three Kings players fouled out. The Lakers also committed 18 turnovers, which led to 32 points for Sacramento. The Kings also found the ball slippery, committing 15 turnovers for 19 points.
Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli