Ingram first noticed results late in the summer, during one-on-one games. The Lakers noticed soon after. Suddenly, Ingram wasn’t getting moved around quite as much. His ability to finish at the rim improved. Consider: Last season, Ingram took 228 shots at the rim, connecting on 56.1 percent of them. This season Ingram has already attempted 178 — and has made 56.7 percent of them. “He’s able to take more contact than he was last year,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said. “Which is huge for him because he is so good at getting those angles and getting to the rim with his length. The stronger you get, obviously, you can absorb that contact and still be on balance to finish those plays.” Said Ingram: “[The strength] has helped my confidence. Driving to the rim I feel like I can take the physicality, the bumps. Getting to my spots is easier. Of course, I can get a lot stronger, but the jump that I made from last year has really helped.”
Towns: Obviously initially, when you’re trying to learn something super complicated — especially a defensive scheme as complicated as Thibs’s — it takes time, because I was already a rookie, and now it’s only my second year. Think about it — I had no stability in those four years leading up: high school I had a coach; college I had a coach, left in one year; and then my first year [in the NBA I] tragically lost Flip [Saunders and then played under] Sam Mitchell; and now this year I’m with Coach Thibodeau. So, I’ve never really had a true defensive scheme to stick with. I’ve always been adjusting on the fly.
Towns: When [Thibodeau] first came in, I just really wanted to learn. I took some extra time with him, started early … and now I understand the system much better. … It’s been amazing, because even with Jimmy [Butler], Taj [Gibson], Aaron Brooks — guys who’ve played for Thibs for a much longer period of time — they understand the schemes, so it’s always great to ask them questions and to be able to play off of them. And times when I mess up on defense, they’re able to help me out because they understand where they need to be in the scheme. … And when you have somebody who’s that passionate about winning, who loves the game that much, and who’s willing to give all his time to have us as prepared as possible, that makes our culture better. It makes us feel better knowing that whenever we step onto the court, we feel we’re the most prepared team in the NBA.