Los Angeles Lakers forward Brandon Ingram had the best game of his young career, albeit in a loss to the Golden State Warriors. The sophomore went off for a career-high 32 points to go with five rebounds, three assists and three steals as the young Lakers took the defending champs to overtime and nearly knocked them off.
Beyond the fact he set a career high in points, that Ingram’s play came against Kevin Durant made it all the more notable. It was the type of performance the Lakers envisioned from the 20-year-old when they selected him No. 2 overall in the 2016 Draft.
Additionally, Ingram’s outburst was part of a five-game stretch in which he’s averaging 18.2 points on 51.5 percent shooting, 5.2 rebounds and 4.2 assists.
While it can be attributed to natural maturation and growth, Ingram also credited franchise legend Kobe Bryant for sparking the improved play, according to Sam Amick of USA Today:
While Ingram hasn’t replicated Kuzma’s move of dining with Kobe Bryant, he has established a productive rapport with the Lakers legend.
“No dinner, but we’ve connected on the phone a couple of times, where I’ve asked him about film,” Ingram said. “I called him before the OKC game last year (on Feb. 24), and that’s when the change of Magic and all the little stuff with (former general manager) Mitch Kupchak happened.
“I wanted to know about (Thunder point guard) Russell Westbrook, wanted to know how (Bryant) watched film and how I could affect the game. The first thing he said to me was defense. He didn’t even say anything about offense. He said defense, and Magic had told me the day before about how I could use my length to get to the basket, so I just put those two together. And I think after that OKC game, it changed my whole season around last year.”
Ingram has said multiple times that he hopes to work out with Bryant at some point. As noted above, Kyle Kuzma is among the Lakers who have reached out to the five-time champion.
What Ingram in particular may glean from Bryant is how to consistently play at a high level. It’s what Lakers head coach Luke Walton said is the key to Ingram becoming the team’s unquestioned go-to player.
To his credit, Bryant, while not interested in joining the Lakers front office, has regularly made himself available to serve as a sounding board. Whether for Jeanie Buss or Magic Johnson, or the next wave of the franchise’s core.
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