Is there anything Magic Johnson can’t do? The Los Angeles Lakers legend has done well since taking over as president of basketball operations in February. In short order, he traded Lou Williams to the Houston Rockets for a first-round pick and in a separate move sent Marcelo Huertas to the Rockets for Tyler Ennis, who showed some promise during the last few weeks of the season. Now, it appears that Johnson is also at least partially responsible for the impressive late-season play of rookie Brandon Ingram.
The Lakers draft the young, wiry Ingram out of Duke last summer, knowing that he would be a bit of a project due to his lack of strength. Still, Ingram’s versatile skill set and incredible wingspan make him an intriguing prospect, one that could eventually develop into something special.
It was during the final months of the season that he really blossomed, and in a recent interview with Robby Kalland for Uproxx he credited Johnson’s tutelage for helping him improve:
As soon as he came on board I feel like he helped me out a lot. I think it was maybe a game up in Detroit, no it was the Oklahoma City Thunder, and he came to practice and gave me some pointers on how to finish above the rim and different pointers and from that game on, I think I just was finishing well around the rim. And he showed me different things, like how to come off pick-and-rolls and being effective around the rim.
As one of the greatest players in NBA history, it’s no surprise that Johnson had a few pointers for the young Ingram, and the difference was noticeable. After struggling to finish in the paint for much of the year, Ingram began to throw down dunks on a regular basis, including a monstrous hammer on Cheick Diallo of the New Orleans Pelicans.
While he still has plenty of work to do, Ingram is still very much on the young end of the spectrum, and in fact is even younger than some of the freshman coming out in this year’s NBA Draft. It isn’t going to happen overnight, but with hard work and dedication, Ingram can become a big-time player for the Lakers.