The hopes the Los Angeles Lakers have for success in 2018-19 rest mostly on the shoulders of former four-time Kia MVP winner LeBron James. However, he cannot do it all for the Lakers and needs some of his younger teammates -- Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and others -- to take a big step forward for L.A. to thrive again.
After last night's 128-123 preseason win against the Sacramento Kings, James couldn't help but praise the performance of Ingram. The third-year forward finished with 31 points (on 10-for-15 shooting), 10 rebounds, three assists, three steals and a block. That type of varied performance -- one that also included an 11-for-15 mark from the free-throw line -- provides the Lakers with the kind of secondary offensive option the team needs this season.
"I thought [Ingram] was great," said James, who finished with 18 points and four assists in 16 minutes last night. "His pace, his ability to play the point and play the wing, he's a very special talent, and we're definitely happy to have him on our side.
"I know what I see in him, and he's looking for this opportunity to make this next jump in his third year. So, it's a lot of upside in that kid, and I'm happy to try to give him as much as I can."
With the game on the line, Ingram delighted the Lakers' bench and Lakers fans with his defense against the Kings' Cameron Reynolds on an inbounds pass.
Slenderman denies four consecutive inbounds passes.— Joey Ramirez (@JoeyARamirez) October 5, 2018
Brandon Ingram's length is absurd. pic.twitter.com/4xrwBo104b
Ingram took on some of the Lakers' playmaking duties last season, logging 10 starts at point guard in January while Ball was out with injury. He took on that role on Thursday (veteran Rajon Rondo got the night off and Ball continues to recover from knee surgery) and came up with key plays down the stretch to help L.A. to victory.
Half of his 10 made field goals came on drives, while he also scored off mid-range pull-ups and had 12 points in the game’s final eight minutes.
"He's a great kid. He works hard -- extremely hard -- and he has a lot of talent," James said. "And he believes in his ability, so we'll see what the next jump is, but, I mean, none of us are prophets. We don't know."
Playing alongside James, even through these first two preseason games, has caused life to be markedly different for Ingram on the court. And James' praise only drives Ingram to want to do more.
"He takes so much [defensive] attention,” Ingram said of James. “I’ve been way more efficient with scoring. And then it gives me more energy on the defensive end — just to guard my guy, get in the passing lane and try to start our offense on the defensive end.
"It makes you want to keep going. I don't think I want to stop here. My expectations are way higher than anyone's expectations in this room or anybody, so for him to say that is an extreme compliment, because, of course, he's my teammate, and I've got to have his back at all times."