LAS VEGAS — As he moves all over the court, Brandon Ingram feels an overwhelming sensation that does not involve nerves, fatigue or information overload.
Instead, it all points to the Lakers’ No. 2 draft pick suddenly becoming bait for his opponents to bite.
“With my size and my frame,” Ingram said, “they try to test me.”
Ingram stands at 6-foot-9 and is listed at 190 pounds. He has said he actually logs at 195 pounds after previously weighing 169 pounds during his freshman season at Duke. There might be a discrepancy on just how skinny Ingram is. But no discrepancy has emerged on what has become a priority on Ingram’s scouting report.
The Lakers may have imposed their will with 78-65 victory over the Golden State Warriors on Monday at Thomas & Mack Center. Ingram, however, encountered suffocating defenses that the Lakers attributed to him scoring only seven points on 0-of-5 shooting.
After posting 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting in the Lakers’ summer league opener against New Orleans, Ingram followed up with a seven-point effort on a 3-of-12 clip against Philadelphia.
Yet, the Lakers have seen something that a box score cannot document.
“As skinny as he is, he’s not shying away from that contact and that abuse,” Lakers summer league coach Jesse Mermuys said. “He’s trying to go get it. That’s a really good sign for him.”
It also has become a good sign that explains why neither the Lakers nor Ingram seem too concerned with his shooting inconsistency.
“When guys get physical, I think it’s important to hit them first before they hit you,” Ingram said. “So just trying to be aggressive and try to make plays for my other teammates.”
The most vivid example of Ingram completing that job description points toward his work at the foul line.
With defenders determined to rough him up, Ingram drew some whistles and went 7-of-9 from the charity stripe. Once more physical tests arise when the NBA regular-season starts, Ingram plans to explore additional nuances that could reward him with extra trips to the nail.
“When you’re not knocking shots down, you always have to find another way to impact the game,” Ingram said. “I just try to get to the free-throw line and get some easy shots and get out there defensively.”
Ingram has done that by averaging five rebounds. He also has listened to his teammates’ positive reinforcement during his relative slump.
“I don’t think I expected to miss that many shots, of course, but I thank my teammates for helping me out a lot,” Ingram said. “They still have confidence in me to shoot the next shot and get back on the defensive end.”
Some things are still holding the 18-year-old Ingram back beyond feel the physical strain from suffocating defenses or poor shooting percentages.
He acknowledged fatigue emerging after playing three games in four nights. He also has stayed “a little reserved” with his teammates, observed Lakers second-year forward Anthony Brown.
“After a few more games, he’ll figure out he doesn’t need shots to fall to get himself going,” Lakers second-year guard D’Angelo Russell said. “He can get a block, a steal, a jump ball, anything just to get himself going. The sooner he realizes that, the better he will be.”
As Russell can attest, that may not happen right away.
During last year’s Summer League, Russell averaged 11.8 points on 37.7 percent shooting, 3.2 assists and 3.5 turnovers. Following a season filled with discomfort in both his fluctuating role and Byron Scott’s system, Russell has blossomed in this year’s Summer League with team-leading averages in points (22.7) and assists (4). Brown also noted that Minnesota forward Karl Anthony did not spark much buzz as the No. 1 pick in last year’s Summer League where he averaged 12.8 points and 7.2 rebounds. Towns then won last season’s Rookie of the Year award.
“He’s got the tools, so it’s just a matter of time,” Brown said of Ingram. “It’s going to take him some time just with his frame. But you can see flashes.”
During those flashes, the Lakers are seeing Ingram inviting the physical beatings instead of walking away from it. It appears Ingram will take that same attitude with any other hurdle that comes his way.