Ingram Aims for More Defensive Strides

With two minutes remaining and his team leading by only four, Brandon Ingram found himself being backed down by Brooklyn’s Trevor Booker on Tuesday.

Though the Lakers’ rookie gives up roughly forty pounds to the six-year veteran, Ingram nonetheless used his 7-foot-3 wingspan to reject Booker’s attempt, putting Los Angeles well within reach of victory.

Two days after the Lakers’ win over the Nets, Ingram allowed that his focus was much more on the offensive side of the ball back in high school and college.

“Coming into this league, I would have never thought of something like that,” Ingram said. “I’m just trying to buy into everything and the position that (head coach Luke Walton) puts me in.”

Walton says that Ingram has the potential to develop into a lock-down defender later in his career, and joked that the team wouldn’t have drafted him in the first place had he known the 19-year-old never really considered that he could become one.

So far, Ingram has been excellent on that side of the ball, as opponents have shot just 32-of-79 percent when guarded by him this season.

Among rookies who have faced at least 50 shots, that 40.5 percentage is second-best in the league, behind only Jaylen Brown (36.7).

“He’s got a good feel for where cutters are coming from and how to use his length,” Walton said. “If he puts his mind to it in practice and the game — toward the end of games when it gets tight — and he really locks in on defense, he’s tough to score on.”

Walton likened Ingram’s length to that of Andre Iguodala, whom he coached as an assistant with Golden State the past two years.

In particular, he was reminded of Iguodala when Ingram blocked Booker, given how he used his body to absorb contact before sending the shot back with his length.

Ingram currently has the third-best defensive rating on the Lakers (98.8) and credits his veteran teammates for helping him find ways to use his feet better defensively.

But he also likes to learn lessons by watching opponents on film, like two-time reigning Defensive Player of the Year Kawhi Leonard, who he will face in L.A.’s game against San Antonio on Friday.

“He’s another defensive guy that I want to watch just to see what he does on the floor,” Ingram said. “Try to take some pointers from him.”