The NBA season is a marathon. One that wears down even the best-conditioned athletes. Nobody is fully healthy, nobody is fully rested and ready to go when the playoffs start. It’s all a matter of degrees.
Rookies can never be fully prepared for the physical grind.
For Ingram, Walton anticipated “that the biggest challenge for him will be the physical abuse of an NBA season.” The reasons have little to do with Ingram’s thin frame that is currently listed at 6-foot-9 and 190 pounds. Walton expressed more concern how the 19-year-old Ingram would adapt to the NBA’s 82-game schedule after playing 36 games during his lone season at Duke.
“No player has ever been through that until you get to the NBA,” Walton said. “It’s exhausting until your body gets used to it and adjusts to it. It takes time. The biggest challenge for him will be figuring out the best way to manage that, still train and take care of himself. The on-court stuff and his play will be just fine. It’ll be the challenge of the 82 game season he might struggle with.”
That’s some spin from Walton. Yes, Ingram would struggle with the 82-game season regardless of his build and conditioning. However, his slight build is only going to exacerbate that challenge for his first NBA season. Or two.
Expect Ingram’s role and confidence to grow as the season goes on. Expect his chemistry with D'Angelo Russell and the rest of the young Laker core to improve over the course of the season. Hopefully, Ingram will soak up lessons watching Luol Deng prepare physically and mentally.
Bringing Ingram off the bench to start is a smart move, but the sooner his play demands he starts the better.