(Erica Rodriguez/Los Angeles Lakers)
2019 Player Capsule: Brandon Ingram
Brandon Ingram’s third NBA season was interrupted just after it began due to a 4-game suspension for fighting incurred in Game No. 2, and once again in December when he sprained his ankle and missed the next seven games.
But he started to play good, consistent basketball in January and early February despite a ton of injuries to his teammates, not to mention trade rumors, before exploding after the All-Star break. The Kinston, N.C. native stopped worrying about how to fit in with his teammates, and just started hooping. In six games, Ingram averaged 27.8 points on 57.0 percent shooting and 52.9 percent from three, plus 7.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 37.2 minutes per game.
“The thing that helped me is just the adversity over the entire year,” he explained at his exit interview. “That was an image of what I wanted to start off the season of me being, but that’s why I continue to work hard each and every day, to repeat over and over what I was trying to do at the end of the season. I think it was a change in mindset.
“It was just me playing basketball, me using my abilities, me just having muscle memory on everything I shot in the gym, the mornings and nights that I came in the gym. It was me going to the games and doing it at 7:30 p.m. instead of coming here at whatever time I was coming in (the practice facility) … that made me more confident to go do some of the things that I can do.”
Just when Ingram had really figured it out, he felt a little pinch under his arm pit that prompted some tests from the team’s medical staff, and ultimately revealed a blood clot. He had successful thoracic outlet decompression surgery on March 16 that ended his season after 52 games.
There was some initial fear of the unknown, but Ingram’s glad they caught it early, and optimistic he’ll be able to return to full activity this summer. He’s still sore from the surgery, limited to pick up certain things, and hasn’t returned to basketball activity.
“The recovery has (taken) its toll, but from day-to-day I feel better,” he said. “The process is moving pretty fast and I’ve been feeling good.”
BY THE NUMBERS
3: NBA players that are 21 or younger to average more points than Ingram’s 18.3: Luka Doncic (21.2), John Collins (19.5) and Trae Young (19.1).
27.8: Points per game in the six games after the All-Star break. Red hot shooting makes that number difficult to replicate, but the number is robust enough that even a small drop off makes for a terrific NBA scorer at age 21.
Perhaps Ingram described it best: “Overall I’ve just been trying to figure out the fastest way to get healthy.”
His full recovery is of course the most important thing. Sure, there are areas upon which he wants to continue to work and knows he needs to improve, such as his continued comfort with his 3-point shot (33 percent on 1.8 attempts per game), and his strength. He has all the tools he needs once he’s healthy and able to get onto the court. It was a tough season for Ingram, but he thinks all the adversity will help him down the line.
“It’s given me a better perspective on life itself,” he said. “Without basketball, I have no idea what to do, so just brings a little added motivation. When I get back in this gym, it’s going to be exciting for me just to pick up a basketball.”
When that happens, he’s going to be holding himself to the standard he showed in that six-game stretch after All-Star, small sample size or not.
“It’s encouraging, because I thought I was supposed to play that way the whole season,” he concluded. “I kinda set the bar, not for you guys, but just for myself, knowing that I can’t come in with the same thing I came in with last year. I have to be prepared, I have to be ready, I have to lead by example. When I come in, a lot of guys follow, and we’re going to go hard at whatever we do, we’re going to get better, we’re going to get the best out of each other.”
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