While the Los Angeles Lakers assembled a collection of young talent over recent years, a distinguished leader had yet to truly emerge. Rather than assume control, Julius Randle, Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart often shared the responsibility.
Of course, Randle reached free agency and is no longer with the team. Meanwhile, Ingram is widely considered the player with the most upside, Kuzma is naturally more vocal, Hart is versatile in any role, and Ball is key to the engine that drive the Lakers.
With the signing of LeBron James and several veterans, the Lakers young core was shifted to more of a supportive role. However, now with James and Rajon Rondo out because of injury, they again are tasked with carrying the Lakers.
As more is being asked of Ball, Hart, Ingram and Kuzma, they are balancing when to assert themselves and when to allow a teammate to take the spotlight. Last Sunday, it was largely Ingram and Kuzma who rose to the occasion with all-around efforts.
Lakers head coach Luke Walton felt Ingram’s game embodied what he’s capable of and how he should go about matters on a nightly basis. Walton also explained the youngsters shouldn’t buy into a belief of there being a hierarchy in place for them.
“There shouldn’t be a pecking order. It should be making the right plays, and that’s what we preach,” Walton said. “Those guys are all very gifted players and there’s nights where they’re going to want to score.
“There’s certain nights one will be hot and other nights the other one will be hot. We have to continue to play with the main goal being the team. We preach that. We’ll continue to try to play that way.”
The Lakers thus far have avoided any sort of controversy that could stem from a power struggle. While Ingram and Kuzma are natural scorers who relish big moments, they ultimately put the team first and have proven to be willing passers.
Hart has shown a knack for sensing when to capitalize on his scoring opportunities and when to focus on the defensive end, and Ball is engrained to be pass-first. As the group continues to develop, they’ll need to do so while remaining afloat until James and Rondo can return.
Otherwise, the Lakers may very quickly find themselves out of the playoff picture in a competitive Western Conference.
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