While LeBron James immediately became the undisputed leader of the Los Angeles Lakers, who will play Robin to Batman is very much undecided. Many pegged Brandon Ingram as the most-likely member of the young core that was likely to step into that role.
Ingram took a leap forward in his development after a rookie season and is expected to make another jump for his year NBA campaign. His talent and work ethic have already impressed James, and the two have formed an early connection on the court.
However, when it came time for the Lakers to make a final push in Thursday’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers, Ingram was subbed out in favor of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope with 3:12 remaining in the game.
The Lakers’ lineup of Rajon Rondo, Caldwell-Pope, Josh Hart, James and Kyle Kuzma cut their deficit to five points with 30 seconds remaining but never drew any closer.
When asked about the substitution, Ingram’s remarks implied there was some frustration with head coach Luke Walton over the decision, via Bill Oram of The Athletic:
Ingram said he and Walton did not discuss the substitution as he came off the floor. "At that point I don’t think we wanted to have dialogue right there," Ingram said. "I don’t want to be out of the game at that point so he didn’t say anything."
— Bill Oram (@billoram) October 19, 2018
Ingram’s viewpoint is hardly a surprise. When the Lakers were developing their young core last season, Ingram regularly voiced a desire to serve as the team’s de factor closer down the stretch of the games.
Ingram finished with 16 points on 7-for-15 shooting in the loss to the Trail Blazers, but the bulk of his points came in the third quarter. Outside of a flurry of baskets, he struggled to knock down open shots.
Walton explained in his postgame interview the change to Caldwell-Pope was in effort to spark the offense, as the Lakers trailed by 12 points at the time.
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