When the Los Angeles Lakers signed LeBron James to a four-year contract in free agency, it came with the front office, head coach Luke Walton and players alike all issuing caution over not relying too heavily on the game’s best player.
James’ arrival certainly changed expectations for the Lakers, and they sought to surround him with versatile playmakers as a means of burdening him to the point where it became detrimental to the team. The responsibility figured to be shared by veterans and the Lakers young core.
Particularly Brandon Ingram, who is in his third season and was identified by many as the player most likely to benefit from having James as a teammate. Ingram hasn’t quite hit his stride and the Lakers as a team have at times fallen into a habit of watching James on offense.
“We slip into that but also we trust the ball in his hands. We know he’s going to make the right play for the team; whether it’s shooting the basketball, whether it’s passing the basketball,” Ingram explained.
“I think we just have to do a better job of being ready, moving without the basketball and moving to open spots so we can be in areas to make plays.”
Since being hired as head coach, Walton has stressed relying on a fast-pace offense that’s predicated on ball movement. James’ 30.4 percent usage rate is ranked 14th in the NBA but is his lowest mark since 2015-16 season.
“We look to him to make plays but like I said, I think our youth has to be better in situations like that. And we have been good,” Ingram added. “I think Lonzo’s been good, Kuzma’s been good. I think we can just do it more and more as we get in those situations.
“I think we have a tendency to do [watch James] in the first half, third quarter, whatever it is. I think we just have to do a better job of moving without the ball at all times in games. I think we get kind of stagnant sometimes.”
While his averages and production when sharing the court with James are lower than when the three-time champion is not accompanying him, Ingram believes he’s continued to play in the same manner.
“I’m still asserting myself. Every single game is just kind of different,” he explained.
“I’m going off of learning experiences, just trying to see what each game has to offer, where I can attack in each spot, and I just go from there. If I’m hot, I go in and take the shot. I can always play-make for my teammates.”