LAS VEGAS — Everywhere Brandon Ingram turned, he could have easily noticed the finality approaching.
The passionate Lakers crowd that dominated these Summer League games appeared smaller. After exerting his scoring superiority, Lakers second-year guard D’Angelo Russell dressed in street clothes and sat on the bench. And no matter the outcome, the Lakers would no longer play any more games here.
Yet, the Lakers’ 92-88 loss to the Utah Jazz in their consolation game on Friday at Thomas & Mack Center showed how Ingram’s work just started.
Without Russell’s playmaking, Ingram assumed a larger offensive role. So Lakers summer league coach Theo Robertson drew up plays that ensured Ingram would receive more looks in the post and along the wing. After averaging only five points per game on 31.6 percent shooting in the first four games, Ingram responded with 22 points on a 9-of-13 clip.
“I felt comfortable,” Ingram said. “I got off to a slow start. It kind of gave me motivation to try to push the team and get buckets and get it on the defensive end.”
Ingram also has another source of motivation that will keep him busy while most of his summer-league teammates will enjoy some rest. Starting on Monday, Ingram, Russell and Lakers third-year forward Julius Randle will begin training with the U.S. Men’s Select team at UNLV. Then, that team will practice against the U.S. Men’s Olympic team.
Robertson rattled off his hopes how Ingram learns as much as he can about those stars’ work ethic, professionalism and endless nuances that lifted them to stardom. Ingram’s bucket list seems even more detailed.
“To learn from the top players in this league,” Ingram said. “I think that’s very important for me coming into this league and trying to adjust to the physicality and pace of this game and see how they score so easily and on the defensive end how they get after it.”
After all, the No. 2 pick only described his Summer League stint as “okay,” noting he could have both improved his marksmanship, defensive impact and pace. Friday’s game marked the first time both Robertson and Ingram believe he played with enough aggression. Ingram also admitted he pushed more to certain spots on the elbow and the wings after having initial success canning his jumper.
“The biggest thing for him was understanding where shots were going to come from,” Robertson said. “It’s a new system and a new game. Just being more comfortable. He’s a physical player. He’s not of the greatest build. But he plays physical.”
So it would only seem natural that the 6-foot-9, 190-pound Ingram would consult Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant. After the former Seattle Supersonics drafted Durant No. 2 overall in the 2007 NBA Draft, Durant overcame concerns about his thin frame enough to become a seven-time NBA All-Star.
Ingram “absolutely” plans to seek Durant’s advice, but not for the reasons that seem obvious.
“What I learned the most is it’s not about the body type,” Ingram said. “I think it’s about your skill level and what you can do on the basketball court. If you can score the ball, I think everything becomes a lot easier for you.”
Durant perfected those qualities pretty well.
He has led the NBA in scoring in four separate seasons. He has collected MVP awards for the NBA regular season (2014), All-Star game (2012) and FIBA World Championship (2010). He has scored 17,566 points through 10 NBA seasons.
“Learning from him, he scores the ball so well,” Ingram said. “On the defensive end, he uses his length and blocks shots. I think going through this process, I want to learn from eventually all these guys.”
As he had done in Summer League, Ingram then plans to use those lessons to sharpen his craft. For a young player seemingly consumed with working hard, it only seems natural he will follow this quest when mostly everyone else is resting.