Brandon Ingram shows Lakers he isn't same player they traded away
New Orleans Pelicans striker Brandon Ingram is called to attack as he attempts to score in the Lakers 112-95 win at Staples Center on Friday against Lakers striker Anthony Davis.
The black and gold sign in the corner of the Staples Center, on which the 2019-20 NBA championship banner will eventually hang, reads: "Stay tuned, Lakers family."
Before the Lakers exchanged for Anthony Davis, they had advised their fans for years to "stay tuned". That's the nature of conversions, lottery after lottery with young player after young player celebrated as the next piece that brings your team one step closer to a title.
It's impossible to know what would have happened if General Manager Rob Pelinka and the Lakers had decided to keep up with their young players if they had tried to develop Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart instead of trading them .
While the upcoming banner at the Staples Center is evidence that the Lakers made the right decision to turn their future for Davis, Ingram in particular is a special piece for another team trying to find their own championship glory.
Although the uniform is different, it looks exactly the same: the noodle arms that are no thicker than his braids, the headband and the long legs slide through the Staples Center again as in 2018.
But the version of Ingram who took to the pitch with the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night is a very different player than the one who left. The potential is being recognized at alarming rates as he tries to build an all-star season that ends with him winning the prize for the most improved player.
"He's a very, very hard worker, really committed to being a really good player, a really trainable, great team-mate." Come and work on his bum every day, ”said new Pelicans trainer Stan Van Gundy at a video conference on Friday before the game. "There was no surprise. It was all good. It was as good as advertised, which was very good."
Last season, Ingram's outbreak was fueled by a monster season out of the three-point range. The 6-foot-8 forward morphed into a large volume threat from the depths who, after three years as a reluctant three-point shooter, scored nearly 40% for the Lakers.
While those numbers fell earlier this season, his style of play and rebound have increased as he displayed the offensive prowess that led the Lakers to put him in second place in the 2016 draft.
It was all there early Friday, and Ingram hit eight of nine shots in the first half, including a silky, spinning midfielder over Kyle Kuzma - a move that apparently justified the $ 158 million five-year extension he signed with the November Pelicans.
Ingram only made one in six shots in the second half to finish on 20 points and the Lakers retreated for a 112-95 win. Lakers coach Frank Vogel said before the game: "Your team are better than their [4-6] record suggests."
In addition to 20-year-old Zion Williamson, the 2019 number 1 who uncovered some of the Lakers' inner holes left by JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard in the off-season, 23-year-old Ingram is giving the pelicans their core life without Davis. Ball with knee pain didn't play on Friday, Hart on the grid.
"He just kept getting better," said Lakers security guard Alex Caruso of his former team-mate Ingram. “He took a step last year just before he left LA ... And I know the worker he is because I would see him work every day before and after training, and I'm sure he will does the same thing in the off-season. He seems like one of those people who just have that drive and who love to get better, be in the gym and work on his craft.
"I'm not surprised he's there. Maybe surprised how quickly he got there, but that's probably just evidence of how hard he worked."
The Lakers got what they wanted when they traded Ingram to New Orleans, and the soon-to-be-hung gold banner at the Staples Center is proof.
But it had its price - and Ingram was fond of reminding the Lakers of what they had to pay to make this championship possible.
Three takeaways from the Lakers victory
After struggling to get into the Pelicans, the Lakers' defense intensity skyrocketed in the second half, helping them blow out New Orleans.
Alex Caruso's impact exceeded the boxing score, but one measurable one, his shooting, continues to impress. He hit all three shots from below.
Even on a free night for Anthony Davis (five-on-16 shooting), the Lakers scored many goals thanks to six double-digit players.
This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.
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