Brandon Ingram's groin strain puts a speed bump in the path of the rolling Lakers

Dan Devine
Brandon Ingram has come on over the past two months, but the Lakers sophomore will be sidelined for a bit by a left groin strain. (AP)
Brandon Ingram has come on over the past two months, but the Lakers sophomore will be sidelined for a bit by a left groin strain. (AP)

Brandon Ingram’s groin had a really bad half-minute stretch during the fourth quarter of the Los Angeles Lakers’ blowout win over the Miami Heat last Thursday night:

First, the 20-year-old sophomore first got rocked in the biscuits by the knee of flying Heat forward Justise Winslow while driving for a layup in transition:

Then, after collecting himself and canning a pair of free throws to put the Lakers up 15 with just over four minutes to go, Ingram pulled up lame on the defensive end while trying to recover from the paint out to the 3-point arc to contest a long-ball attempt by Winslow:

Ingram exited the game and wouldn’t return, finishing with 19 points on 8-for-14 shooting to go with five rebounds, five assists, one block, one steal and one turnover in 35 minutes of work in the win, L.A.’s fourth in a row. After initially identifying the injury as a strained left hip flexor and keeping Ingram home for the Lakers’ Saturday visit to Texas to take on the San Antonio Spurs — which they won, thanks in part to a dynamite close by the suddenly red-hot-shooting Lonzo Ball — the Lakers had Ingram undergo an MRI on Sunday.

“I have had pain in my groin before, throughout the season” Ingram said Saturday, according to Bill Oram of the Orange County Register. “I don’t think it’s that serious, hopefully it’s not that serious, but I’ll let the doctor decide that.”

Bad news, Brandon: it’s apparently not not serious.

The timeline the Lakers announced Monday is evidently retroactive, meaning the earliest Ingram might return would be Sunday’s game against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Lakers coach Luke Walton and team brass will hope that a few days off is all Ingram needs; the last thing they want is an extended shelving to put an end to what’s been the best stretch of basketball in his young career.

The No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft entered this season looking like a player on the verge of breaking out after a strong close to his rookie campaign. He hasn’t quite reached Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson’s lofty preseason goal of averaging “up toward 20 points a game,” but he’s taken big steps forward, most notably as a playmaker.

Ingram served as L.A.’s ostensible point guard while rookie triggerman Ball was sidelined by an MCL sprain, and he was flat-out excellent, averaging 16.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 5.0 assists in 32.6 minutes per game in 16 games between mid-January and the end of February while shooting 48.3 percent from the floor, 43.3 percent from 3-point land and 72.7 percent from the free-throw line and posting a 2.2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. The 6-foot-9 wraith’s surprisingly steady hand helped fuel a rise to respectability, as L.A. has won 13 of its last 17 while boasting a top-10 offense and a middle-of-the-pack defense over the past seven weeks. The Laker O has soared with Ingram on the ball during that stretch, averaging 112.6 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor, compared to 105.7 points-per-100 when he rests.

It always seemed insane to write Ingram off after an up-and-down rookie season; he was one of the youngest players in his rookie class, working to fill out a reedy frame while taking a nightly beating from wings and bigs a decade his senior, and doing so for a team that was just beginning its rebuild in earnest. Over the past two months, though, he’s really started to turn it on and begin looking like a legitimate nightly difference-maker for a team that’s getting competitive sooner than many anticipated.

“They’re growing up really quickly,” Walton said last week, according to Oram of the Register. “We see it happening and we’re excited about it.”

There’s plenty to be excited about, especially in Ingram’s continued evolution as a scorer and facilitator. Here’s hoping the pain of this strain doesn’t linger too long, and that it’s a short-term speed bump after which he’ll be able to get back up to speed quickly rather than something that could scuttle the final month of a successful second season.

More NBA coverage:

– – – – – – –

Dan Devine is a writer and editor for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!