Brandon Ingram at LA Lakers Media Day at their El Segundo training facility. Photos by Brad Graverson/SCNG/The Daily Breeze/09-26-16
SANTA BARBARA — The teasing already started as Lakers forward Larry Nance Jr. jokingly questioned to reporters why the rookie forward Brandon Ingram became the team’s No. 2 pick. The rookie duties will soon pick up with Ingram planning to sing during a team event here on Thursday night. And physical tests await once the listed 6-foot-9, 190-pound Ingram matches up against some of the NBA’s more bruising forwards.
As Ingram begins navigating potential hurdles through his rookie season, however, another factor more important than fitting in with teammates and stronger opponents could determine his long-term success.
“He’s got to continue to work on stamina and getting stronger in this league,” Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said. “He has to work on every day taking care of his body, his diet, rest and make it through an 82 game season. Because I think he’s going to play a lot.”
Lakers coach Luke Walton has already said he likely will bring Ingram off the bench, while starting 12-year- NBA veteran Luol Deng. Some of the reasoning stems from rewarding Deng for his continued productivity and motivating Ingram to continue working. Yet, Walton has also anticipated the 19-year-old Ingram feeling overwhelmed adapting from a 35-game schedule last year at Duke toward the NBA’s 82-game schedule.
“I expect at some point this year he hits a wall,” Walton said. “He’s been phenomenal with everything he’s done. He’ll be as good as anyone can be. But I don’t think he can do anything preemptively to be ready for the NBA season at his age.”
Ingram will at least try, though.
He has embraced the grass-fed diets that Lakers strength and conditioning coach Tim DiFrancesco promotes. Ingram has quickly wrapped himself in ice following practices. While the Lakers have praised Ingram for continuing to work out immediately following Summer League, he also has mostly rested afterwards.
“I’m not hurting right now,” Ingram said. “But I’m trying to get in the cold tub and do everything I can before I start getting injuries.”