Following a rookie season filled with ups and downs, former second-overall pick Brandon Ingram has been trying to take his game up a notch this offseason.
The Lakers will only be returning two starters from last year’s team that finished 26-56. With Ingram being one of those starters, he has taken it upon himself to improve this offseason. There has been repeated mention of the sophomore wing wanting to become more vocal and more of a leader this season, which is welcomed, but in order to do so, the on court product has to be better for Ingram.
In an interview with Lakers team reporter Mike Trudell, Brandon and Lakers assistant coach Brian Keefe gave us an update on what they have been working on together this summer.
Both Keefe and Ingram noted that working on shot mechanics were the number one priority for the offseason and how they have tinkered with Ingram’s shooting form.
INGRAM: For me it was the mechanics of the shot. Coach Keefe and I did a good job of just trying to come here every day and work. We started out with form shooting. Trying to keep myself from shooting over my head. Trying to find different ways that I feel comfortable shooting the basketball the right way. That was the first thing. The second thing was to get my body right. Of course, repetitions of everything I’d do in the game, but getting my body right in the weight room. Trying to eat a little bit better and eat a little bit more.
KEEFE: One of the goals going into the offseason with Brandon was to make his shot more efficient. Clean up a couple little things technically with his shot. He has good touch, but it was just making him more consistent and focusing on one or two things. One, his footwork, making sure he was on better balance. Brandon has bought into (the work on the shot). That was him wanting to get better at. We talked about it, but you have to have that buy in, and he wanted to get better and has put a ton of time into it this summer. Now he’s going to get the opportunity to transfer it to games. But that’s a hard thing to do, to change your shot a little bit. The fact that he wanted to do that, had the patience to do that and the mind set to grind through that in the summer? Unbelievable.
These are promising steps for those hoping to see a better efficiency from Ingram next year. During the second half of the season, he enjoyed a noticeable leap in field goal percentage from 36 percent to 47 percent and he will ultimately have to continue that trend for a more successful sophomore campaign.
KEEFE: Brandon really got better as the season went on. You saw after the All-Star break he made a huge jump. I think it was all the work that he put in, and once he got comfortable and started becoming more confident about what he could do, he made a huge jump.
Of course, the work that Ingram and Keefe have been able to put in is irrelevant if it does not translate to games, something of which they are well aware.
INGRAM: Actually, I think I’ve made a big jump. I feel way more comfortable shooting the basketball, especially shooting the right way. We’ve worked on it and worked on it, and we started playing a little bit. We tried to see how I felt playing in games. It felt good at first but I wasn’t making a lot of shots. But I kept playing, and it’s been falling. Kept getting more comfortable, more confident. I’m feeling better from the 3-point line. Especially today, with Kyle Kuzma guarding me, I felt great (laughs).
KEEFE: That’s part of the learning curve. You have to get comfortable with the technique, and make the transfer to the game. You’re probably going to regress a little bit to what you used to do. That’s pretty normal. I think he’s made those changes, but that takes time. There’s some patience (required). We play a game, it’s not 1-on-0, it’s 5-on-5. But I think he’s on the right path.
There have been countless comparisons of Ingram and Golden State Warrior Kevin Durant. As a former Oklahoma City Thunder assistant during Durant’s first seven seasons, Keefe was able to witness first hand the similarities between the two forwards.
KEEFE: They have very similar bodies; both were very thin when they first started. But I think (their tie) is the work ethic and the amount of time you have to put into it. Obviously Kevin is a great player, but he worked really hard and was really consistent with that. His mentality about trying to improve on a daily basis was something you can learn and take to any guy. Brandon has a similar body type, so those experiences were helpful. Just saying, ‘Hey this is someone who was similar to you that you can pattern to a degree,’ is one thing, but you have to be your own person. The habits are probably the most important thing.
This is high praise coming from someone who knows how hard both players work. Ingram knowing the time he has put in and the adjustments he has made to his game will undoubtedly boost his confidence and will go a long way toward putting together a breakout year.
INGRAM: This past year I didn’t feel like I ever got into a groove where I just felt comfortable every single game and was playing like myself. I got a chance to reflect on (the season), to see where I could get better, have a better mentality and gain confidence. I went into the game (at Summer League) and it all felt natural. I felt like myself again. I felt like I was just playing regular basketball. Now I feel even better. Better conditioned, stronger. We’ve been putting in so much work in the weight room. The skill work we’ve been doing every single day … working on offense and defense. Especially with my improved conditioning, I think with my point guard Lonzo Ball kicking the ball ahead and the way we want to play fast … the sky is the limit.
If the Lakers are going to be an improved team and make a push for playoff contention they will need a massive contribution from Ingram. If one thing is certain about his dedication this offseason, he might just be up to the task.