Brandon Ingram has a small frame, and now he has to deal with the pressure of filling Kobe Bryant’s shoes at the Lakers.
The No. 2 overall pick in the NBA 2016 Draft, learnt on Tuesday, he’ll be taking over Bryant’s practice locker.
Talk about pressure.
“I saw where my locker was, and I definitely knew it was Kobe’s locker,” Ingram said Tuesday at his introductory news conference at the Los Angeles Lakers’ training facility. “I know [general manager] Mitch [Kupchak] told me I had some big shoes to fill when I came in here, but I liked it. I like the pressure that’s on me right now. It’s going to motivate me to do good things on the court. It’s all good pressure for me.”
Ivan Zubac, who was the Lakers selection with the No. 32 overall pick, was introduced alongside Ingram. And he was asked if he is jealous that Ingram inherited Bryant’s locker, as Zubac was a die-hard Bryant and Lakers fan growing up.
Zubac laughed. “No, he can have that pressure,” he said.
Ingram will have to vie for the small forward starting position with 12-year veteran Luol Deng.
Yet the top draft pick is not intimidated by the challenge it poses. But intends to win the spot and learn from Dieng in the process.
“I haven’t talked to him yet, but I plan to pick his brain on different things,” Ingram said. “He’s been in this league for a very long time. I hear nothing but good things about him. In practice, I plan on competing against him each and every day. It’s up to the coaches who starts.”
If Ingram can’t outperform Deng and earn his way into the starting lineup, he will be upset. At the end of the day, though, he said he will do whatever new head coach Luke Walton asks of him, including accepting a bench role or fewer minutes.
“Of course, from my competitive side, it matters to me,” Ingram said. “But if I have to be a reserve, I’ll be coachable enough to do whatever the coach tells me to do.”