The expectations for Brandon Ingram seemingly increase by the day.
The Lakers drafted him with their No. 2 pick. Ingram’s versatility, long wingspan and rail-thin frame elicited comparisons to Kevin Durant. And Ingram learned on Tuesday that he will have Kobe Bryant’s vacated locker at the Lakers’ practice facility.
But that does not necessarily secure Ingram as the Lakers’ definitive starter at small forward. The Lakers agreed to a four-year, $72 million with 12-year NBA veteran forward Luol Deng, who could assume that same position.
All of which prompted one question. Does it matter to Ingram if he starts or not?
“Of course, from my competitive side,” Ingram said on Tuesday at the Lakers’ introductory press conference. “But if I have to be a reserve, I’ll be coachable enough to do whatever the coach tells me to do.”
Lakers coach Luke Walton has said he considered Ingram the top choice after winning the ACC’s Freshman of the Year award during his lone season at Duke. Walton also has praised Ingram’s defense, outside shooting and ability to play multiple positions.
That also explains why the Lakers pursued Deng, who has averaged 15.5 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists in his 12-year NBA career with stints with the Chicago Bulls (2004-14), Cleveland Cavaliers (2014) and Miami Heat (2014-16). Deng also has cemented a league-wide reputation as a positive locker room influence and willing mentor. It also seems natural Ingram and Deng could hit it off after both starring at Duke.
“I haven’t talked to him yet, but I plan to pick his brain on different things,” Ingram said. “He’s been in this league for a very long time. I hear nothing but good things about him. At practice, I plan to compete against him every single day. It’s up to the coaches on who starts. But of course, I’m going to compete against him every day.”