Brandon Ingram is trying to find his way on Team USA: ‘It’s a little frustrating right now’

MANILA, Philippines — In a lineup of stars, it’s bound to happen to someone.

Brandon Ingram has been that unlucky guy on Team USA so far, who has seen the points, shots, and minutes he’s used to getting come in well under what he was expecting.

“This is totally different than what I am used to,” Ingram told The Athletic Sunday, prior to the Americans’ practice at a Manila business district hotel. “The team is winning right now, so I can’t be selfish thinking about myself.  But it’s a little frustrating right now for me, and I’m just trying to figure out ways I can be effective.”

Team USA has only played one game that counts, and on the scoreboard at least it was a smashing success — a 27-point win over New Zealand in the FIBA World Cup opener. Ingram was a nonfactor in the game, scoring two points on four shots in 15 minutes. But the body of work, and its emptiness, stretches into the exhibition season for Ingram, where he averaged 7.8 points per game over five contests and scored just three points on 1-of-6 shooting last Sunday against Germany.

In six games, counting both the World Cup and the exhibition season, Ingram has never taken more than eight shots or scored better than 11 points. This is not how he envisioned it when he said yes to Team USA, or how American deep thinkers thought it would go for him. As a lanky power forward who can get his own shot, virtually all involved imagined Ingram as the next iteration of Carmelo Anthony on the USA roster.

Ingram is a former All-Star whose on-court time with the New Orleans Pelicans last season was limited to injury, but in the 45 NBA games he played, he averaged 24.7 points and shot nearly 40 percent from 3-point range.

“Nothing has really gone his way,” USA coach Steve Kerr said. “He hasn’t had a lot of opportunities, but I think that’ll change. I think his time is coming. He’s just gotta stay with it. The thing I’ve learned with FIBA is every night belongs to someone new. I wouldn’t have guessed that Paolo (Banchero) would be our leading score last night, but all 12 guys are so talented that, all it takes is a couple shots to go in and any one of these guys can get going. And I expect that to happen for B.I.”

Banchero, the youngest player on the USA roster, did indeed lead the Americans in their World Cup lidlifter with 21 points. He has played a lot of backup center this summer, but Banchero saw time against New Zealand in Ingram’s place at the 4. In the last two games, against Germany and then New Zealand, USA’s starters fell behind by substantial scores, and a second unit led by Tyrese Haliburton, Austin Reaves, and Banchero spearheaded comebacks.

Kerr said Saturday night that he had not considered a lineup change at halftime against New Zealand, but on Sunday both Kerr and Haliburton suggested that Ingram’s opportunities were coming. The question would be — at whose expense? — unless Kerr was about to swap Ingram out as a starter and give him a look on a second unit, opposite Edwards, where perhaps he might get more looks.

“I think you just need to run some more sets to get him touches, so he gets a feel for it,” Haliburton said. “I think that’ll help. But I also think it’s based on the unit that he’s out there with sometimes, like sometimes with some guys (it helps) just to change scenery with guys and just getting more involved.”

Haliburton clarified that he was not suggesting a lineup change was coming, but if there was, would it be much of a surprise? Kerr has already said this week that, because of USA’s general deficiency in rebounds because of a lack of size, he would have to consider bigger lineups with Banchero or Bobby Portis next to Jaren Jackson Jr. against larger opponents. The Americans play Greece Monday (8:40 a.m. ET), and in the second round could face Lithuania and Montenegro, two countries with NBA players for big men.

If Kerr made such a move, to Banchero or Portis, Ingram would slide out, and then perhaps get some looks on a second unit with two willing passers in Haliburton and Reaves, and otherwise be on the floor when Edwards, a ball-dominant two guard, is not.

“He gets paid the big bucks, like he’s one of the best players in the NBA,” Edwards said. “He’s a superstar in the league, so, he can figure it out on his own, but it’s nothing like somebody staying your ear. Like they stay in my ear. So just keep talking to him man, ’cause you know, a couple shots might not go his way. He might get a couple turnovers and get down. I mean, I get down sometimes because I turn it over or miss a couple shots.”

Ingram said he was used to playing point guard (really it’s a point forward) with the Pelicans, where the ball is in his hands at the start of an offensive set — meaning he has more of a say in how or when he’s going to shoot. He said on Team USA with Jalen Brunson running point, Edwards on the court, not to mention Mikal Bridges and Jackson, he was trying to simply play the right way, to not force his own looks.

“Usually when I play the right way, the basketball gods give me everything I need,” Ingram said, but noted that international play is different from the NBA, from the physicality and what is called, to a shortened game (40 minutes versus 48 in the NBA), to the urgency of each game.

Ingram has played with LeBron James and Zion Williamson and different points in his career, so he is used to thriving next to stars, and suggested a reason he has struggled with Team USA is he has established himself.

“I know who I am,” Ingram said. “In ways I can get stuck and think my way is the best way. This is a learning experience. … I get to see everybody work, get to see everybody’s strengths and everybody’s weaknesses, so I can take it back to my team, be smart about it.”

In USA’s exhibition win over Greece, on Aug. 18 in Abu Dhabi, Ingram shot 2-of-5 from the field and finished with seven points, three rebounds, and two assists in 22 minutes. Kerr said he expects a tougher game from Greece on Monday, arguing that the Greeks played better after the first quarter in USA’s 108-86 triumph.

If Greece makes life difficult, the Americans would be better off with a better, more active (and included) Ingram, as was the plan when this team was put together.

“I feel like he’s finding his way into the FIBA game,” Kerr said. “I mean, it’s a different game for sure, and in FIBA, the defense is rewarded and in the NBA, the offense is rewarded. FIBA is much more physical. I think he’s having to try to find his spots on the floor. And I think that’ll come.

“And like I said, all these guys are gonna break through. From one game to the next, it’s gonna be somebody different. And I have no doubt that’ll happen with B.I.”

Related reading

Vardon: Team USA shakes off poor start, beats New Zealand

(Photo of Austin Reaves and Brandon Ingram: Stephen Gosling/ NBAE via Getty Images)

s.parentNode.insertBefore(t,s)}(window, document,’script’,
fbq(‘init’, ‘207679059578897’);
fbq(‘track’, ‘PageView’);

Source link

Source: News

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *