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Lakers’ Brandon Ingram doesn’t think he has played to his ability yet

Brandon Ingram, Lakers

LeBron James has expressed his ultimate confidence in Los Angeles Lakers teammate Brandon Ingram, doing so after a four-point, five-foul losing effort in the second game of the preseason. Ingram doesn’t think he has played up to his talent quite yet, though, despite dropping 31 points in his very next game to prove his new teammate right.

“In the two years that I’ve been in the NBA, I don’t think I’ve played to my ability,” Ingram told Mirin Fader of B/R Magazine. “Even just me being comfortable and playing my game, I don’t think I’ve ever been on the floor, comfortable.”

Ingram came into the league as a lanky, unrefined one-and-done prospect with a high ceiling for his talent, but lots of work to be done when it came to filling out his body, sporting a Darius Miles-like 6-foot-9 and 190-pound frame coming out of Duke.

The North Carolina native went from his projected position at small forward to getting stints as the primary playmaker during the latter part of the 2017-18 season, one coach Luke Walton implemented during his 31-point outburst in the Lakers’ lone win of the preseason against the Sacramento Kings on Thursday by starting him at the point guard spot.

Ingram’s biggest enemy is his inconsistency, following that 31-point performance with a 10-point outing on 3-of-10 shooting from the floor. So why is there this imbalance between one great performance and a subpar one? Perhaps no one knows more than those who have coached him before Walton.

“I think Brandon likes to be perfect,” said Mike Krzyzewski, his former coach at Duke University. “He’s very critical of himself.”

“He’s reflective,” said Perry Tyndall, Ingram’s former high school coach. “He has always taken that inward look and said, ‘What can I do to change? To be better? To be what’s needed?’ He holds himself accountable.”

While those are relative signs of great maturity, it’s also what has kept him from fully letting loose and unleashing his talent onto the competition. Yet just like James has, there are plenty of others who are just as comfortable predicting a breakout season in the relative future.

“Within the next five years, I think Brandon could be one of the top five or 10 players in the game,” said Jerry Stackhouse, a former NBA All-Star, who also mentored Ingram as his former AAU coach.

If Ingram can put it all together, allowing his instinct to mesh with his cerebral approach to the game, the Lakers could have a gem to take over the mantle once James decides to hang it up for good.