Former Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant spent 20 years battling for the purple and gold before heading into retirement after the conclusion of the 2015-2016 NBA season. Now, with the Lakers clearly in a rebuilding stage, Bryant has an opportunity to assess the team from afar for the first time in two decades.
Last season the Lakers set a franchise record for losses, and while it was painful, it ultimately led to them landing the second overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, which they used on Duke forward Brandon Ingram. In a recent interview with Mike Bresnahan of Time Warner Cable, Bryant was asked for his thoughts on the newest Laker:
“He plays with great tempo. I like his length, his ball handling ability, he can get to spots on the floor. I think defensively he has the potential to be fantastic as well. He has long arms and long legs, so hopefully, he starts paying attention to that just as much as the offensive end.”
Over the course of his career, Bryant developed a reputation as a student of the game, and his quick analysis of Ingram reflects that. He mentions Ingram’s length, which is inescapable, but he is also correct about Ingram’s ability to get to spots on the floor. As we saw during Summer League, Ingram isn’t afraid of contact in spite of his slim frame and is more than willing to get into the paint where he can use his super-sized limbs to fire over defenders.
Bryant also mentions Ingram’s defensive potential, and again, is spot on. Currently, Ingram is going to spend a fair amount of time getting bullied by more physical players, but he has shown good defensive instincts in help situations. As he gets stronger and is able to make reads faster, he has the potential to single-handedly wall off large sections of the court.
While no one expects Ingram to replace Bryant, the fact that he has Kobe’s intrigued is certainly a good sign.