You know that feeling you get when you’re talking to someone and they have food stuck to their teeth?
You can’t quite bring yourself to tell them, because you’re just hoping it’s obvious enough they’ll feel it themselves and fix it.
Now imagine it’s happening during a conversation with someone you clash with, someone you’re not friends with. Someone you really, truly dislike.
Part of you is reveling in their stupidity, their obvious lack of awareness, the fact that they look like an idiot… and yet another part of you just wants them to get the damn spinach off your teeth seriously dude how can you not feel that?!
But part of me wants to scream the so-damn-obvious issue right in LA Coach Luke Walton’s face.
“LUKE, MATE, YOU’RE PLAYING A 19-YEAR-OLD ROOKIE WAY TOO MANY MINUTES! HE ISN’T READY, AND PLAYING HIM MORE IS ACTUALLY HURTING HIM MORE THAN IT HELPS HIM!”
You see, unfortunately for Brandon Ingram, he was anointed “the next Kevin Durant” and was then drafted by the least-patient fanbase in the NBA.
Laker fans have had a steady diet of success in recent decades, so this post-Kobe era of abject, hilarious, and total failure is difficult for their fans to process.
They expect the Lakers to win. Always. They expect their rookies to be Superstars-in-waiting and they expect every Free Agent to be begging to join the storied history of the second-most successful franchise in the NBA.
This is bad news for Ingram, because in College he had an elite jumpshot, ran like a gazelle, had plenty of tricks in his offensive bag, and was surprisingly tough for a thin guy. He scored, passed, and defended at a high level.
Before the draft, he was hyped up by the media as a possible #1 pick.
The truth? He was never a #1 pick.
Australian Ben Simmons was always going to be the #1 overall pick. There was never a doubt, not for a moment, that Simmons represented the best bet at a ‘Franchise-Shaping’ talent.
But that’s boring. The media can’t drag thousands of online articles, newspaper columns, and TV show minutes out of “OK so Simmons obviously goes at #1, who is the next-best-guy?”
So they hyped Ingram as though he was on Simmons’ level. He wasn’t. He isn’t. And he’s not Kevin Durant. He is never going to be.
Kevin Durant entered the NBA at a younger age and proceeded to score in buckets. Durant had a preternatural ability to get buckets, even as a rookie. Despite a thin frame (remember the panic when he couldn’t bench 180lbs?) Durant could flat-out score the damn ball from Day 1. He averaged 20 points a game as an overmatched rookie on a bad team.
Ingram is halfway through his rookie season as an overmatched rookie on a bad team… and he has not scored 20 points in an NBA game once.
His shooting percentages are awful. His defense has even taken a step back after it was reasonable in the earlier stages of the season. And I mean…
Why is this happening?
The grind of the NBA season is taking its toll on his thin frame, but most of all…
Ingram’s confidence is totally gone. And his coach is to blame for buckling to the delusions of the fanbase.
Not that Luke Walton is berating him or shouting at him when he gets things wrong. Almost the opposite. Walton is overwhelming Ingram, saddling him with too much responsibility, too much trust.
The fanbase expect Ingram to lead the Lakers in years to come, and Walton wants to “prepare him for that” when the truth is that he is shattering the kid’s confidence.
The Coach is playing Ingram big minutes (he leads all rookies in minutes) and all in the hope of acclimatising Ingram to the NBA.
But with every missed jump shot, and every turnover, and every time Ingram is easily boxed out on a rebound by a guy 20kg heavier than him… you can almost visibly see his confidence erode.
He has become more tentative, more uncertain, and more scared to make mistakes. He’s not shooting as often, because he’s worried about missing. Again.
He should be playing short stretches, maybe totalling 16 minutes per game. But the rabid Laker fanbase aren’t willing to patiently wait for rookies to develop. No, they all have to be elite imemdiately. And Walton is hamstrung by this expectation.
So while I loathe the Lakers franchise, players, fanbase, and just generally anything Laker-related, I am watching them horrifically mismanage a talented 19-year-old to the point that he may never recover… and it’s like watching spinach in their teeth.
So this is me telling them:
Hey Lakers, and Laker fans… Ingram SUCKS right now. Cut his minutes back, hard. Let him be a 19-year-old rookie.
But they won’t listen, which is fine. I don’t really want them to listen, I prefer it when the Lakers suck as they do right now.
Either way, my conscience is clean. Unlike their teeth.