Andre Ingram Scores 19 in Storybook NBA Debut

The two 32-year-olds stood at halfcourt, waiting to check into the game.

For one, it was just another game in a Hall of Fame career. For the other, it was the apex of an 11-year journey to the NBA.

So before Andre Ingram stepped onto the court for his NBA debut, Chris Paul had to pull him aside and salute a player that had spent a decade in the G League working to this moment.

“I told him I heard about his story and that grind is unbelievable,” Paul said. “I told him much respect. Ten years grinding in the G League, finally getting an opportunity and to play like that — that’s pretty special.”

Paul may have heard tales of Ingram’s deadeye shooing — how he is the G League’s all-time leader in both 3-point percentage and made triples — but he likely wasn’t expecting the one-man show that followed.

Ingram dazzled the entire night, scoring 19 points on 6-of-8 shooting, including four 3-pointers. He even mixed in some strong off-ball defense with three blocks and a steal.

The six-year South Bay Laker didn’t miss a shot until the fourth quarter, hitting each of his first five attempts, and received “MVP!” chants from a frenzied STAPLES Center crowd well aware of his decade-long journey to this night.

“I just felt some electricity out there,” Ingram said. “It was amazing. The crowd, the lights — it was once in a lifetime.”

Houston may have won, 105-99, but the night clearly belonged to Ingram.

Using his gunslinger-quick release, Ingram punished the Rockets for leaving him any space beyond the 3-point line.

He also mixed in a pull-up jumper and a driving floater, while recording the highest-scoring debut by a Laker since Nick Van Exel in 1993.

“He came in cashing out,” Josh Hart said. “We were happy for him. He gave us a big spark, and no one else deserved that as much as him.”

Ingram was given a license to shoot from the minute he met his fellow Lakers.

He didn’t disappoint them in front of a sold-out arena, plus a nationally-televised audience.

“It was open arms from everyone: all the teammates, all the coaches,” Ingram said. “Two games left in the season (and) they were telling me to shoot everything. I’m grateful to these guys, man.”

Yet the majority of Ingram’s gratitude went to his wife, Marilee, who flew in from his hometown of Richmond, Virginia, along with their two young daughters.

Ingram said that his journey couldn’t have been made without Marilee, who supported his dream despite the financial ramifications of playing in the G League.

Ingram — owner of a Bachelor’s degree in physics — has supplemented his basketball career by tutoring high school students in math over the summer, and via Skype during South Bay’s season.

“You don’t make a lot of money when you’re in the minor league system,” coach Luke Walton said. “You’re playing a crazy schedule, you’re in small towns, and you’re just constantly waiting for other people to think you’re good enough.

“That can get really mentally tough on people; and I think it shows how mentally strong he is, how much he believes in himself, and how much he loves the game to stick with it for this long.”

Hart scored 20 points, while Julius Randle had 17. … The Rockets were led by Paul (22 points) and James Harden (21 points, 10 assists). … L.A. had a 35-9 advantage in fast-break points. … A crowd of 18,997 — including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Will Ferrell and Nicki Minaj — sold out STAPLES Center for the Lakers’ final home game of the year.