LeBron James is officially ruled out for Thursday night’s game in Sacramento and listed as day-to-day after that, but reports indicate the Lakers are expecting their superstar to miss at least a few games with his strained groin.
In James’ absence, and the continued rehab of Rajon Rondo, Thursday night’s group will look an awful lot like last year’s young squad that rode the rollercoaster of inconsistency to a solid, but unspectacular finish. Against a surprisingly good Kings team, they’ll get themselves quite the test as LeBron and the front office see how well the youngsters have developed alongside him.
Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball have been the two that have had the biggest adjustments to make in playing with James. Ball has always been the primary ball-handler at every level he’s played at, but now has had to figure out how to play more off the ball to fit with the ball-dominant James. Ingram has had to make a similar adjustment, as he has to spend more time off the ball as well with Ball and James taking most of the ball-handling and creating duties.
With LeBron out, Ingram is looking at this upcoming stretch as an opportunity to play his game more and take on a larger role for the team, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN.
“It’s an opportunity,” Ingram said after shootaround Thursday, leading up to the game against the Kings. “It’s an opportunity for me to go out there and play my game a little bit more. I think I’m going to be a little bit more ball-dominant, cutting off the basketball. I have to play even better defense and be on the help side on the defensive end. So it’s a chance for me to just up my game a little bit.”
It’s both the right thing for Ingram to say and also a bit telling about how he is still finding his way with LeBron. He absolutely should be looking at this as an opportunity, but him saying he gets to “play my game a little bit more” indicates that he still doesn’t view what he does next to LeBron quite as “his game.”
It’s a difficult adjustment and one that takes time for players at any level to make when suddenly thrust into a secondary or tertiary role on the floor. Ingram can use this time with LeBron out to try and find his rhythm in a more comfortable role and carry that over when James returns.