Brian Keefe and Brandon Ingram
Lakers assistant coach Brian Keefe reviews film with Brandon Ingram on Feb. 27, 2017.
(Ty Nowell/Lakers.com)

Lakers Prepare for Final Stretch of Season

by Joey Ramirez
Digital Reporter

With only 22 games left in the Lakers’ season, head coach Luke Walton is now even more focused on giving his young players opportunities to play and grow.

Walton and his coaching staff are using this last stretch to figure out a “more clear map going into next season,” which includes figuring out what his young players can provide.

Thus, veterans like Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov have seen their minutes dwindle over the past few games. Walton said that it isn’t because of their performances, but rather because their games are already known quantities.

The same can’t be said for the likes of 19-year-old Ivica Zubac, who will get his chance to start at some point in the final six weeks of the season, according to Walton.

“We’ll get him out there and see how he handles first-string center and bigger minutes,” Walton said.

These last games will also be an opportunity for Zubac’s fellow rookie, who is already in the starting lineup, Brandon Ingram.

After scoring 17 points three times this season, Ingram finally broke through for a new career-high in Sunday’s loss to San Antonio, providing 22 on 10-of-15 shooting.

He did the majority of his damage in the paint — even throwing down a dunk over Pau Gasol — and credited this to advice received from new President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson.

The five-time champion gave some pointers to Ingram to supplement the coaches’ teachings on how to handle contact when driving to the rim.

“It’s understanding how to use your body,” Walton. “Knowing when the contact’s coming. Knowing when you can be the player that initiates contact to get the defender off balance. And then obviously getting stronger yourself, growing into your body.

“The speed of the game — all that stuff will really play into him settling into the player we think he’ll be.”

Ingram summed up Johnson’s advice as a mental approach.

“Just trying to read the defender a little bit,” Ingram said. “(Find) easy ways to score.”

Meanwhile, Ingram has caught the eye of new teammate and fellow small forward Corey Brewer. The former seventh-overall pick is now in his 10th season and sees the value in having the end of the season to develop.

“He’s gonna be really good,” Brewer said. “He works hard. He’s just young. He’s learning the game. It’s good for him. It’s going to be a good 22 games for him just to learn, have a chance to be the man, go out there and score points and figure out how to score.”

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