Andre Ingram had a storybook NBA debut, but he doesn’t want it to end there
The overnight sensation is a free agent who aims to return to Lakers
LAS VEGAS — Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue enthusiastically introduced himself to Andre Ingram during NBA summer league action last weekend to offer respect for Ingram’s Hollywood script-worthy short stint with the Los Angeles Lakers.
“That was really cool what Magic Johnson did for you,” Lue said of the Lakers president signing Ingram for the final two games of the 2017-18 season.
Ingram appreciated Lue’s words. But the overnight sensation is not ready for his NBA career to be over. The 32-year-old is dreaming about playing with LeBron James and the Lakers when next season begins.
“After the Clippers game, I was thinking, ‘How do I get into training camp next year?’ That was the thought,” Ingram said. “That is the only thought for me. … My focus is on next season. I want to stay here. That’s my goal.”
Ingram went undrafted in 2007 after playing four years at American University. The Utah Flash selected the 6-foot-3, 190-pound guard in the seventh round of the 2007 NBA G League draft. During the next 11 years, the two-time G League 3-point shooting champion played in 384 career games for Utah and the Los Angeles D-Fenders/South Bay Lakers for less than $27,000 per season. The part-time math tutor also played in two games for Perth in Australia in 2016 before asking to be released.
On April 9, the Lakers surprised Ingram by calling him up for the final two games. His story garnered worldwide attention after he scored 19 points, nailed three of four 3-pointers and blocked three shots to set Staples Center on fire in his nationally televised NBA debut against the Houston Rockets on April 10. With a hint of gray in his hair, he scored the most points by a Laker in his first career game since Nick Van Exel had 23 in 1993. Lakers coach Luke Walton gave Ingram the game ball, and former Lakers star Kobe Bryant tweeted about it all.
“Obviously, people come up to you and say, ‘That game was great,’ ” Ingram said. “I don’t think I will truly be able to appreciate how big of a moment that was, not only for myself but for others, until I’m removed from it.”
Ingram came back to earth after scoring five points and missing three of four 3-pointers during a 115-100 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on April 11. He made $13,824 in his two games with the Lakers after earning $19,000 in the G League last season.
The Los Angeles Dodgers had Ingram throw out the ceremonial first pitch with his wife and two young daughters in tow. He made an appearance on former NBA star Kevin Garnett’s show Area 21. Ingram described his life after making his remarkable NBA debut as a “good type of different.”
“That was a dream for me, obviously,” Ingram said. “It was a whirlwind for me at first. But if you think about it, what would you rather have? The same thing the last nine offseasons or something different? The feeling was a little overwhelming at first, but then it turned into greatness.
“I’m getting noticed a bit more. One hundred percent of it has been people appreciative of the story, gracious to me and my family. It’s been good.”
The Lakers renounced their rights to Ingram on July 1, making him an unrestricted free agent. Ingram said the hope is that the Lakers will invite him to training camp, where he could have an opportunity to play on a team now led by the NBA’s biggest star in James.
“I really would love to be a part of that,” Ingram said. “I think they will be excellent.”
Ingram said he has received some interest but no offers from the other 29 NBA teams and he has not considered playing professionally overseas. He said he is a nervous wreck over his free agency and he has told his agent to focus on getting him back to the Lakers. General manager Rob Pelinka could not be reached for comment.
Ingram said he is staying in shape and preparing himself for the possibility of being invited to training camp. Perhaps the reworked Lakers’ need for more shooting could work in his favor.
“It would mean everything,” Ingram said of making the Lakers’ opening-day roster. “There is always the next thing, the next goal. Training camp is the next thing, then playing well and doing well for your team, then the next thing and the next thing. That is how it always is. Being on the [opening-day] roster would mean just as much as playing those last two games.”