Brandon Ingram won’t be opening the season in the Los Angeles Lakers starting lineup. New Lakers head coach Luke Walton says he’s going too make the second pick from the 2016 NBA Draft earn a starting spot, and he is absolutely making the right call to do so.
Ingram is entering the NBA with a ton of hype behind him and the worst thing Walton could do would be handing him a starting spot. A young player with Ingram’s pedigree does need to see the floor to improve, but unless he earns his way onto the hardwood he’ll never appreciate the work needed to get there.
Walton explained his philosophy to Mark Medina, saying, “You develop the young core by rewarding them when they play well.” Unlike his predecessor, Byron Scott, Walton explained he’s not averse to letting young guys play, he just wants them to show they want to earn that time on the floor.
Walton also said Ingram’s situation is unique, given his slight frame. At 6’9″ and 190 pounds, the Duke product must put on weight to survive the pounding of an NBA season.
“The biggest challenge for him will be the physical abuse of an NBA season. No player has ever been through that until you get to the NBA. It’s exhausting until your body gets used to it and adjusts to it. It takes time. The biggest challenge for him will be figuring out the best way to manage that, still train and take care of himself. The on-court stuff and his play will be just fine. It’ll be the challenge of the 82-game season he might struggle with.”
Ingram is almost certain to slide in behind free agent acquisition luol deng on the wing. That will give him a chance to learn behind a veteran mentor.
As for Ingram, he’s taking the news in stride. On Monday he told Colin Cowherd, “Hearing that gives me motivation to work hard.”
If that’s truly his attitude and he’s not just putting on a front for a radio show, then Walton’s decision is already paying off.