Heading into the season, much of the talk involving the Los Angeles Lakers was how Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma would fare playing under an intense spotlight as the supporting cast to LeBron James.
Now, however, the Lakers young core is struggling to remain afloat as James recovers from a strained groin. His absence has been overlapped by that of Rajon Rondo, who was also injured in the Christmas Day game.
With two of their leaders and primary ballhandlers sidelined, the Lakers have relied more heavily on Ball and Ingram. Mixed results have contributed to a 1-4 record in games James and Rondo have missed.
Although it can be reasoned added responsibility on Ball has lent to facing a larger burden, the second-year point guard refuted the notion. “There’s been pressure on us since we got here, whether we had other guys or not,” Ball said. “We’re a big part of this team and we’ve got to bring it every night.”
Ball’s biggest issues in his sophomore season has been bouts with inconsistency in the aggressiveness he plays with. The Lakers haven’t asked him to contribute much in the scoring department, but it’s an area head coach Luke Walton said the team now needs more of from Ball.
While Ball has faced intense scrutiny, it’s paled in comparison to criticism lobbed at Ingram. In addition to reverting back to a role as point guard, he’s working to find a rhythm after missing four games due to suspension and seven more because of a sprained ankle.
“I feel the same way whether guys are in or out,” said Ingram when asked if there’s a sense he must do more while James and Rondo are out.
“The accountability of losing basketball games is (the same) because I know I can always do something to affect the ballclub and win games. After each loss, I think I take it the most (personal).
“I think I feel good when we win. I never felt satisfied but I felt comfortable in games where everybody was comfortable on the basketball floor, shooting their shots, getting to the rim and were just confident in themselves.”
Ingram also downplayed the notion he’s been uncomfortable being asked to fill various roles this season.
“It’s a different adjustment with different guys on the basketball floor. I just try to come in, figure out how to play the game the right way, how to be effective on the basketball floor,” he said. “I just look at the game and see how I can utilize myself and teammates.”
Ball and Ingram may not be feeling added pressure but the Lakers’ slide has resulted in them dropping from fourth in the Western Conference standings to eighth.
“Every game is big in the West,” Ball said. “Plus, we keep losing the same way, in my opinion. Get up in the fourth (quarter) and keep giving it away. We’ve got to change that.”
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