Brandon Ingram went down with a nasty-looking, gut-wrenching knee injury early in a mid-standings matchup with the Orlando Magic on March 24. The New Orleans Pelicans wound up on the losing end of that date but won a small victory with great imaging results. Ingram avoided major damage, was diagnosed with a knee contusion, and the team released a statement saying the former NBA All-Star would be evaluated in two weeks.

New Orleans went 7-6 with Ingram out (26 days), including that Orlando visit. Still, everyone knew rushing the rehab process would invite far greater risk with no promise of better results. Sure, it hurt that the Pelicans took a haymaker from the Los Angeles Lakers in Ingram's return, going down 32 points in the third quarter. CJ McCollum couldn't pinpoint a single big issue to blame in the disappointing loss but there is still plenty to play for this season. Ingram is a big part of those plans.

Ingram's first comments to the media in almost a month complimented the training staff and gave the fans reason to hope for a win in the NBA Play-In Tournament rematch with the Lakers.

“The recovery process was me being patient,” Ingram said. “Just trying to heal and stay in shape while getting my knee back stronger. The training staff did a good job helping me mentally and physically.”

The 26-year-old All-Star finished with 13 points and five rebounds in the regular season finale defeat to his former team. Ingram had no assists, no blocks, no steals, no offensive rebounds, and no free throws.  That level of inactivity off of the ball is not going to cut it in the NBA Playoffs and the locker room knows it.

Ingram, who is eligible for a contract extension this summer, took responsibility when critiquing some poor play in the locker room on Sunday.

“D'Angelo Russel and Austin Reaves had it going from the three-point line,” Ingram noted. “Our force on the defensive end, I can count about 15 points where it was a switch on me. It was a switch where I was supposed to switch and they went right down the lane. A jump switch from D'Angelo where he knocked down some threes. So I think just having more force behind the defense, and it starts with it. It starts with our other guys too but it definitely starts with me.”

Pelicans lack urgency, hold home-court advantage

Los Angeles Lakers center Jaxson Hayes (11) looks back at New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram (14) after a play during the second half at Smoothie King Center.
Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Ingram attributed the blowout to the “aggression and sense of urgency” from Lebron James in the second quarter. The Lakers ran away from the Pelicans in a wire-to-wire 16-point win that was never in doubt. Los Angeles led by 32 points with 7:11 left in the third quarter.

“The story was already written. Tonight (the regular season-ending loss to the Lakers) was supposed to happen,” Ingram asserted. “I'll take it and respond. The knee felt pretty good tonight. It felt pretty strong so I'm ready to move on and continue to play…I think we'll be able to respond after going back to look at film and knowing what's at stake.”

Ingram knows there were subpar plays all over the tape to review, but at least the Pelicans can do so while enjoying some home cooking.

“We get to stay at home. We don't have to go on the road, got some fresh bodies. Just got to look at the game plan and see where we can do better,” Ingram stated. “We still believe in our team, still believe in the rhythm that we have. I'm ready to come back into the fold and just continue to be myself. I think we'll have our rhythm on Tuesday.”

They'll need it. The Pelicans are 21-19 at home but 28-14 on the road. New Orleans is 38-26 with Ingram this season though. That's another encouraging trend beyond Ingram's good-to-go injury update.

Willie Green is just one of many happy to have Ingram back in the rotations.

“(Ingram) means a lot to our group,” Green said. “Not having him, there were some games that we needed his production, and adding him back to this team as another scorer, another wing defender — he can rebound, he can pass, there are so many things that he can do on the floor — that helps us win.”