LOS ANGELES — Tuesday marked the 140th game of Brandon Ingram’s NBA career. But it was the first game he gas played since Anthony Davis set the basketball world on fire by requesting a trade on Monday that linked the Los Angeles Lakers forward in just about every plausible trade scenario to land the New Orleans Pelicans star.
The Lakers had a glimpse of what they could be on Christmas Day, but now they wait for health, LeBron James’ return and the trade deadline.
To cap the whirlwind 24 hours, Ingram scored a career-high 36 points on 16-for-20 shooting in the Lakers’ 121-105 loss to Philadelphia with LeBron James, Kyle Kuzma and Lonzo Ball all out with injuries.
“That’s just part of the business,” the 21-year-old Ingram told ESPN as he walked out of Staples Center on Tuesday night when asked about the trade speculation. “I realized that. There’s different odds [of where Davis could end up] looking at everything. I can only control what I can control and just be the best that I can be every single day that I’m out on the floor.”
It was an exemplary night for Ingram as he helped cut an early 24-point deficit down to single digits, in one stretch connecting on 10 straight field goal attempts.
His play of the night came on a powerful two-handed dunk over former teammate Corey Brewer that elicited an and-1 call from the referee and a raw scream and stare down out of the former No. 2 pick.
“I don’t think it was so much me yelling — it was first me getting lost into the game and playing and not thinking about anything,” Ingram told ESPN. “But second, that was like my vet. [Brewer] talked to me about everything. Everything that went on behind the scenes, some of the stuff that you can’t say outside [of the locker room] and in front of everybody else. We called each other ‘The Thin Twins.’ We were both under 190 pounds. That’s my dude. He’s been really, really good to me.”
The question is whether the Lakers, the team that drafted the 6-foot-9 kid with the 7-foot-3 wingspan out of Duke three years ago, will continue to be good to him or if he will become part of a package to try to pry Davis from New Orleans by the Feb. 7 trade deadline.
Lakers coach Luke Walton did not address the situation with the entire team Monday, a team source told ESPN. However, Walton has had several individual conversations about it with his players, much the same way he did with players last season when the specter of landing James became an elephant in the room and eventually led to the cap-clearing trade at the deadline that sent Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson to, coincidentally, the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The speculation is “weighing heavily” on the several of young guys this time around, the source said.
When second-year guard Josh Hart was asked about Davis after the game, he feigned ignorance.
“What news? Who? I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Hart said. “I don’t pay attention to media stuff. I control what I can control and that’s just going out there every day and being a professional about my craft.”
Any Lakers trade package presented to the Pelicans would include some combination of Ingram, Hart, Kuzma, Ball and Ivica Zubac, as well as a future first-round pick or picks. When that offer could occur leading up to the deadline is unknown. New Orleans general manager Dell Demps is “not picking up his phone,” a source familiar with the situation told ESPN on Tuesday.
Ingram happens to be playing some of the best basketball of his career at the moment, preceding Tuesday’s career high with an efficient 22 points on 9-for-11 shooting along with four assists, two blocks and two steals in a win against Phoenix on Sunday. And in his four games prior to that, he topped 20 points twice while mixing in a career-high 11 assists in a win against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Is there any correlation to his play and the trade rumors swirling?
“It’s just a matter of me just making shots today,” Ingram told ESPN. “I’ve worked on that part of my game repetitively over and over, and that’s why I’ve gotten so frustrated after games when I miss those shots or when I’m not getting those shots. It’s just me seeing the game better, seeing the game from video [study] and visualizing it and going into the gym and shooting the same shots.”
Which gym Ingram will be hoisting those shots in down the line is to be determined. His continued strong play could make another team like New Orleans want him just as much as it could make the Lakers wish to hold on to him.