El Segundo, CA-Thanks for making the Los Angeles Lakers home, Brandon Ingram. This is not “Go Duke” time any more. This is the land of the Purple and Gold that you’ve been invited to take up residence in.
It is the basketball home to Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Wilt “The Stilt” Chamberlain, James Worthy, George Mikan…you get the picture.
This is the place where stars do align. Being star struck, however, should not be an issue with Ingram.
After all, he did come from the prestigious Duke University, where walking in the shadows of Grant Hill, Christian Laettner, Kyrie Irving, Jahil Okafor, Gene Banks, Danny Ferry, Elton Brand, Johnny Dawkins, and Mike Gminski, can very easily add levels of intimidation and awe to a talented basketball prodigy.
But Ingram, if you judge his demeanor at his introductory press conference to the Los Angeles media, does not come across as being overwhelmed by the moment, even if it is taking over the locker space formerly occupied by the Black Mamba.
“I did see where my locker was, and I definitely knew it was Kobe’s locker. Mitch (Kupchak, Lakers general manager) told me I had some big shoes to fill when I cam in here, but I liked it,” Ingram said. “I like the pressure that’s on me right now. Of course, it’s going to motivate me to do good things on the court. It’s all good pressure. I take it as motivation for me to do the right thing on the court and off the court.”
Pressure? What pressure? Let’s see, Ingram (now 18) will be a 19-year-old novice taking the floor in the fall for one of the most storied basketball franchises in league history. He will be taking up the locker space where Bryant dressed.
If that isn’t intimidating enough, Ingram also has the challenge of being one of the key pieces to the puzzle that is supposed to help turn the Lakers back into an elite team again.
That may take a while. But at least the Lakers are turning the right direction with their influx of young talent that includes last year’s top draft pick D’Angelo Russell. Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, Lou Williams, Larry Nance Jr., along with pickups Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng, give the Lakers a good blend of young and veteran players.
Ingram, who has already has been viewed to have a similar game to Kevin Durant, could be that star the Lakers have been looking for. At Duke, Ingram turned out to be more than someone with great abilities, he blossomed into one of the best players in college basketball, scoring 17 points and grabbing nearly 7 rebounds a game.
At 6-foot-9, Ingram has the body and wingspan of a Durant, along with the outside shooting capabilities of the NBA megastar. The Lakers, showed enough confidence in Ingram’s basketball abilities to make him the No. 2 pick in this year’s NBA Draft. If he plays anywhere near the level of Durant during his career, the Lakers will likely be satisfied.
“Anybody would want to be compared to Kevin Durant,” said Ingram. ”
This is indeed a new chapter in Lakers’ history. The Black Mamba is gone. No. 24 called it a career after his 60-point finale against the Utah Jazz in the team’s last game of the 2015-16 NBA season. It was a bittersweet farewell for Bryant and the Lakers.
While Bryant’s good-bye was something to ride off unto the sunset on, the finality of the Lakers’ woeful season was not lost. The Lakers wound up beating the Jazz to claim their 17th win of the season, good enough to recognized as the league’s worst.
The only good thing to come out of that closed door was the opportunity for the franchise to open up a new one. The Lakers didn’t waste time doing that, clearing the ship’s deck by letting go coach Byron Scott in favor of bringing in Luke Walton.
New beginnings require doing things different.
And for the Lakers to be relevant in the future, they had to move on from the disastrous few years that have been laminated by the unsuccessful run of Scott, Mike Brown and Mike D’Antoni as head coach. It is easy to see Walton as a candidate with a possible long run at the Lakers’ helm.
He’s confident, bright, has an NBA pedigree (father Bill Walton), and can lay claim to winning an NBA title as an assistant coach with the Golden State Warriors. Besides, Walton’s inside connection with the Lakers doesn’t hurt his first-time head coaching opportunity.
But Walton is going to need some talented players to play big for him to pan out as coach. Ingram is certainly an integral part in of all this.
“I’m just really excited to be in this organization, and finally get to work,” Ingram said.