The Whiteboard is The Step Back’s daily basketball newsletter, covering the NBA, WNBA and more. Subscribe here to get it delivered to you via email each morning.
With Anthony Davis and LeBron James both out with injury, last night was Brandon Ingram’s time to shine. He led the Pelicans to a 128-111 win over the Lakers, dropping 36 points on just 21 shots, hitting 4-of-6 from beyond the arc. He might have gone for 50 if New Orleans hadn’t carried a 26-point lead into the fourth quarter, setting Ingram up to rest for most of garbage time.
Ingram’s big scoring night shouldn’t have been a surprise though. He was taken by the Lakers with the No. 2 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft and spent three seasons in Los Angeles before he was sent to New Orleans as part of the package that brought Anthony Davis back to the Lakers. The negotiations that led up to that trade were public and messy, and certainly could have left some hurt feelings on the part of the players who were shipped out.
For his part, Ingram has said he wasn’t mad about the trade, telling The Undefeated in 2019: “I just take stuff differently. Trade rumors, whatever, I always know it is a business. To be in trade rumors, that means someone wants me in this league. I just continue to play hard. I have a routine that I meet every day. I know it was a process and I was going to get there. The process helped get me to where I wanted to be before the injury. I was on the up-and-up, I got hurt. But now I am in a good situation. Everything happens for a reason.”
But even if he’s not frustrated, that doesn’t mean there isn’t an extra delight to be taken in torching his former team and especially Kyle Kuzma who the Lakers protected and kept in that deal.
How has Brandon Ingram performed against the Lakers since being traded?
Over six career games against the Lakers, Ingram has averaged 25.0 points (more than he has against any other NBA team) along with 5.0 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game. His true shooting percentage in those games is a meager 53.5 percent but he’s obviously using every opportunity he can to score — his 30.0 career usage rate against the Lakers is higher than against any other team.
And he’s also shown an absurd tendency for aggressively attacking Kyle Kuzma anytime they were matched up together.
Last night, half of his points were scored in the 22 possessions where Kuzma was his primary defender, and he shot 6-of-6 from the field and 4-of-4 from the free-throw line in those situations. Since being traded to the Pelicans, Ingram has averaged 25.3 points and 20.9 true shot attempts (field goals plus trips to the free-throw line) per 36 minutes in all the time he’s been on the court. In the 55.3 possessions he’s played with Kuzma as his primary defender, Ingram is averaging … 84 points on 55.2 true shot attempts per 36 minutes.
To say he’s looking to attack Kuzma would be a pretty dramatic understatement. And it’s not a case of him disrupting the team’s rhythm to settle a personal score either. The Pelicans, as a team, have scored at a rate of 128.4 points per 100 possessions when Kuzma was the primary defender on Ingram.
The Pelicans are still muddling through, likely trading several of their veterans in the next few days to reset the rebuild they’re working through around Ingram and Zion Williamson. But even in a team situation that’s obviously less ideal, Ingram is still clearly making the most of it.
The Houston Rockets were forced into a rebuild, a Jame Harden trade and now endured a 20-game losing streak. What are they reaching for now?
Elgin Baylor, the Lakers legend who passed away Monday at 86, was more than a great player. He changed basketball forever.
To wear or not to wear — that is the question every fan has to answer when it comes to wearing a jersey, NBA or otherwise.