Ingram continues to lift his game and the Pelicans
Brandon Ingram has missed 35 of 56 games played by the New Orleans Pelicans this season due to injury.
It comes as no surprise that his absence clearly injured the Pelicans and the promise of a promising, potentially special season.
When healthy, Ingram is a special player.
He can create off the dribble.
He can rise over virtually any defender and get his shot off with his high release point.
He is one of the deadliest, if not the best mid-range jump shooter in the NBA.
What’s more is that Ingram, once a below average defender, is now competent in that aspect of the game.
Ingram is a capable rebounder for his position.
Ingram is an excellent passer who sees the floor well.
All of those qualities were on full display in Tuesday night’s 116-107 win over Atlanta.
It is hard to believe that Ingram is already in his seventh season in the NBA, his fourth with New Orleans. Ingram is just 25, with many prime years remaining in his career.
Ingram was out for two months most recently, from November 15 to January 15.
You knew he would be a bit rusty upon his return.
That was most certainly what occurred.
In Ingram’s first three games upon his return, he shot the ball poorly, to the tune of 17 of 57 from the field (29.8%).
When your best, most talented player on the floor performs at that level, you are likely going to lose.
The Pelicans lost all three games.
Then, Ingram found his sea legs, found his jump shot, found his game.
In a 111-106 loss to Dallas, Ingram scored 26 points with nine rebounds and seven assists, making 10 of 20 field goal attempts.
Ingram then exploded for 35 points in a big win over his former team, the Lakers, whom he continues to show what they are missing. That victory may well have changed the course of the 2022-23 season for the Pelicans.
After sitting out a win over Sacramento on the second of a back-to-back, Ingram returned Tuesday night with 30 points, eight assists and three rebounds. It marked the seventh time in Ingram’s career that he posted at least 30 points and eight assists in a game. Ingram had three of those games last season.
In his last three games, Ingram is averaging 30.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game while shooting 36 of 66 from the field (54.5%) and 86 percent from the free throw line.
Ingram is back.
So are the Pelicans.
Now, the impatient watch is on to see when Zion Williamson will return.
Williamson wants to play in the NBA All-Star game Feb. 19 in Salt Lake City.
The Pelicans have three games prior to then.
If Williamson does not play in a game for the Pelicans prior to the All-Star game, will he or should he play in Utah?
Willie Green said Tuesday evening before the game with the Hawks that he does not think we will see the Opening Night starting five before the All-Star break.
On opening night, , Ingram scored 28 points while Zion Williamson had 25 points.
Yes, Williamson was in the starting lineup that night.
Green’s comment indicates that Williamson is not likely to start a game before the All-Star break.
That is a bit discouraging but there is an eight-day break between the Pelicans playing the Lakers in Los Angeles on Feb. 15 and a road game at Toronto on Feb. 23. That extra week could provide the final, necessary healing of Williamson’s hamstring for him to return for the final 23 games of the regular season.
While we wait for Williamson to return, we watch Trey Murphy emerge as a more complete, reliable scorer, not just a shooter.
We watch Jonas Valanciunas answer the call in professional, workmanlike fashion every night.
We watch CJ McCollum to provide leadership and scoring consistently.
We watch Herb Jones defend in superb fashion.
We watch Jose Alvarado provide great energy and spark nightly.
We watch Larry Nance Jr. do all the things necessary to win games.
We watch Naji Marshall attack the rim regularly.
We watch Kira Lewis Jr. get his chance to show what he can do.
We watch Willy Hernangomez put up numbers when called upon.
Most of all, we watch Ingram perform at an All-Star, sometimes elite level as the Pelicans have now won three straight heading into a showdown against a very good team in Cleveland Friday night.
A star is back playing like a star.
Winning has returned.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…