There are some interesting connections between the Dodgers and the Lakers.
Both came into existence in the East Coast. The Dodgers first played in Brooklyn, New York, the Lakers in Minneapolis. Both are now staples in Los Angeles. In fact, both are franchises that exemplify Los Angeles. Magic Johnson, himself a legendary Los Angeles icon, owns a small percentage of the Dodgers and is President of Basketball Operations for the Lakers
These two franchises are joined at the hip.
Interestingly, they may have something else in common. When it comes to Brandon Ingram, the Lakers may be harking back to a strategy the Dodgers were regularly accused of in the 80’s. Back then it was common to hear some incredible hype from players in the Dodgers minor league system. I don’t just mean a regurgitation of stats, no, we were told these guys were the next incarnation of Garvey, Lopes, Smith, etc.
They were next.
Here in LA, as we were enjoying a period of Dodger baseball that hasn’t been seen in LA until recently, we heard incredible things about Steve Sax, Mike Marshall, Greg Brock, Rudy Law and others. Now, to be fair, each of those mentioned here had nice careers. None however were hall of famers. To hear the hype back then, a HOF induction was a given.
Which leads me back to Ingram.
Hyping up prospects is not new in the NBA. The kiss of death for a lot of rookies is to be dubbed the next (fill in the name of an established player). Greg Oden was supposed to be the next Bill Russell. Harold Miner had the misfortune of being stuck with the nickname “Baby Jordan”. Penny Hardaway was the second coming of Magic Johnson.
No, no and no.
The Lakers are high on Ingram, and they should be. It’s easy to see the potential in the player. His jump shot is smooth, he rarely makes mistakes, he plays as if he has a high basketball IQ. The problem with potential is that is just as likely to stay potential as it is to grow into more. After all, potential really just means the player CAN achieve the same level of success as some other player, not that they will.
The high water mark for Ingram has always been Kevin Durant. Both are 6′ 9″ after all. Sadly for the Lakers, that’s where the comparisons start and end. Ingram is no Durant. Can he be, possible, but not likely.
So, what’s the problem? Other teams have had players they thought were better than they actually were. The Lakers didn’t invite over-selling players. I doubt even the Dodgers did. What’s odd about the Lakers and Ingram is that this smells like something different.
It’s no secret that the Lakers want to re-build through free agency. In order to bring in two players at max contracts they have to either shed payroll or bring them in via mid-season trade. In both scenarios it benefits the Lakers to paint a rosier picture about Ingram than may actually be the case.
You might be saying that it’s hard to hide anyone in the Association. In baseball you can take someone who isn’t the best with the glove and still play him in the outfield or first base and hope for the best. In basketball however, there are only five players on the court at a time; if you don’t belong out there, you will be found out. Which is the interesting thing about Ingram, he clearly belongs, but it’s looking more and more that at best he is a complimentary player.
The trick for the Lakers is to make is seem as if he CAN be more.
In the off season it seems as if they informed Ingram that he needs to attack more; get to the line more often. He does it with this head down on seemingly half of his shots on goal. At times, it works, other times it doesn’t. It’s proving a point though to everyone who’s watching in the Association, this kid is looking to improve.
Is he the next Durant, no. Can he be? The Lakers want you to believe so.