D'Angelo Russell pulled up for what he thought was an open 3-pointer. But instead of finding the net, the ball harmlessly sailed well below the backboard and out of bounds.
The 7-foot-3 wingspan of Brandon Ingram had caught Russell off guard.
"I was curious if he blocked it," Russell said after Summer League practice on Wednesday. "He was like, 'Yeah, I blocked it.' I was like, 'You were nowhere near me!'"
According to Ingram's teammates and coaches, he has put more than just his length on display during the Lakers' first two Summer League practices.
“I’m very excited about what he can do,” head coach Luke Walton said. “Obviously he’s young and there’ s a lot of work to do. This is a grown man’s league. But as far as knowing how to play the game and the skill set of being able to handle the ball, bring it up, post up, his defense — he’s been all over the place defensively, getting deflections for us — I’m very excited about the way he’s played so far.”
But Ingram's regular-season head coach isn't the only one who came away impressed.
Summer League head coach and regular-season assistant Jesse Mermuys was taken by the second-overall draft pick's preparedness for his first taste of the NBA.
“He’s been impressive,” Mermuys said. “There’s no question about it with his feel. One thing that has jumped out is that he doesn’t play like a college player, which is a really nice surprise. A lot of the time we have to introduce them to a lot of NBA concepts.
“And that’s a tribute to the (Duke) coaching staff and the work that he’s done since leaving school. He’s obviously prepared himself really well for some NBA concepts.”
The 6-foot-9 Ingram was listed by the Blue Devils at 190 pounds last year, but 230-pound Larry Nance Jr. warns not to underestimate his physicality.
“He’s a frail kid, but he’s tough,” Nance said. “On screens, he’ll hit you. On rebounds, he’ll hit you. He gives you what he’s got. That immediately takes away the soft label or the tiny label. You have what you have to work with, and he uses his to the best of his abilities.”
Nance further praised Ingram's stride, saying he "runs like a deer." But Ingram, who is used to critics immediately pointing out his weight, dismissed the idea of his frame holding him back.
“I just use my toughness,” Ingram said. “If you can score the ball, it doesn’t really how big or small you are. Of course, the weight is gonna come and it’s gonna help me out a lot, but I’m just doing what I can right now to score the ball and help out defensively.”
Russell knows firsthand just how much Ingram can help on defense, as well as on the other end of the court.
“He makes shots,” Russell said. “He’s a mismatch all over the floor, inside and out. He runs the floor. He’s just got god-given talent that you just can’t teach. His length, his height, his skill.”
Next up for Ingram, Russell and co. is a bus ride up to Las Vegas on Thursday before Summer League begins against New Orleans on Friday.
While Ingram hopes to develop his game and build chemistry with teammates during the tournament, his goal is simple.
“If you’re not trying to win," he said, "there’s no point in playing.".