Ingram's Work Continues
The good old eye test will tell you that Brandon Ingram is both getting to the rim with increasing frequency from his rookie season, and that he's scoring more effectively once he gets there.
The numbers back that up.
The 20-year-old is scoring 53.0 percent of his points in the paint in 2017-18, up from 41.5 percent last season, while attempting 6.6 field goals per game inside 10 feet, up from 3.5 as a rookie.
So, when Ingram repeatedly turned the corner against his primary defender on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden, it was no surprise that the Knicks met him with a bunch of big bodies.
The thing is, bringing help hadn't been much of a deterrent to Ingram in other games, but most teams don't employ the 7'3" Kristaps Porzingis.
At Madison Square Garden, Ingram struggled to finish early and never really got going, until two late buckets made him 2 of 12 for the game, just his second contest out of the last eight in which he shot worse than 42.9 percent from the field.
Ingram has already locked in a reputation as an intense worker, so it's no surprise that after Wednesday's practice in Cleveland, he was repeatedly drilling on his pull-up jumper, one counter he can deploy against over-helping defenses.
The Knicks did a good job of packing the paint and throwing bodies (Porzingis, most notably) at Ingram when he got to the rim last night. After today’s practice in Cleveland, Ingram is spending extra time working on his pull-up J as a counter. pic.twitter.com/St48BMeiBM— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) December 13, 2017
"A pull-up is part of my game and something I've been working on, and that's one of the counters," said Ingram ahead of Thursday's matchup with LeBron and the Cavs. "Last night I felt like I was one-dimensional and I wasn't using that counter."
"He works on it every day," said Luke Walton. "Once he gets that shot consistently, it'll be such a dangerous weapon for him, because his length and ability to get to the rim … when you're able to attack downhill and stop on a dime at his height, and raise up and shoot that, it puts the defense on its heels and makes it really challenging to stop."
Another counter Ingram did use effectively against the Knicks was his passing, either by dumping the ball to a diving-to-the-hoop big, or by finding a shooter on the weak side of the defense after drawing the help defender.
"It all depends how the big is playing coming off screen and roll and seeing how the defense collapses," he explained. "I make my decision off that."
Part of growing as a player is simply adding more and more to one's game, and while Walton and his staff love how Ingram keeps working to hone his skills, they don't want him to attack the rim any less because of one night in which he struggled to finish plays.
"We 100 percent want him to keep attacking that rim," said Walton. "And then, as you get more comfortable and better as a player, you start toying with the defense where you attack the rim one time to finish, then you attack and make an arm pit pass to the help side defender's man, and then the next time you act like you're going to the rim and pull up and shoot. It's about staying ahead of what the defense is doing."
With that said, Walton knows he doesn't need to worry about Ingram's mindset.
"It's important for me to be aggressive and not deter," Ingram offered. "When I'm aggressive, all the other guys are aggressive, and somehow that's how we win games. These last few games I've been aggressive and other guys have made the right plays. Last night, I think if I were all the way locked in we would have won."
There's a certain amount of "Mamba Mentality" in Ingram, who you just heard say he won't be deterred.
"When I go on the basketball court, I don't think about who's guarding me," said the Kinston, N.C. native. "It could be the best defender or the worst defender. I have to have the attitude that I don't think anyone is going to deter me from getting to the basket. Maybe help defense can come over and affect it, but not the first guy."
Ironically, when Ingram last spoke to Kobe, they weren't talking about how to attack defenses.
"When we talked it was actually about defense and how good I can be on the defensive end," said Ingram.
Whether it's offense, defense or intangibles, Ingram is very much on the right track if you ask his coaches.
"A lot of coaching is always keeping the temperament of the team, making sure the chemistry is where it needs to be," Walton concluded. "It's funny, with Brandon, because he's so low maintenance. He just works and works and works and doesn't make excuses or complain. Sometimes you forget to check on him because he's the good student in school, just doing what he's supposed to. He's a pleasure to coach."