Brandon Ingram, Pels Set the Stage for Zion

Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram piled in a career-high 49 points and hit a potential game-winning jumper. Photo by Chris Taylor.

Story by Chris Taylor, junior at SJBP STEM Magnet High School Program.

Entering this week, reports of Zion Williamson’s return swarmed the media. Many fans anticipated Williamson to debut tonight, snatching up more tickets than usual for a mid-season game against the Utah Jazz. But he was not inserted into the lineup. Regardless, Pels home fans were not disappointed.

In the waning seconds of the fourth quarter, Pels fans witnessed a near game-winner from Brandon Ingram and a foul that the put the Jazz in position to steal a win. But one made and one botched free-throw sent the Jazz to overtime, only to be suffocated by the Pels’ speedy offense and gritty defense. The Pels beat the Jazz 138-132. 

The win was really owed to Brandon Ingram catching his typical hot hand with a career-high 49 points, paired with an evolving supporting cast that’s setting the stage for the No. 1 draft pick. Despite sitting at 12th in the Western Conference, the Pels have won nine of their last 12 games.

Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball drives to the basket for a reverse layup. Photo Chris Taylor

In late October, Zion underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn right lateral meniscus. He was originally expected to return within 6-8 weeks, but to avoid re-injuring the knee, the Pelicans took unprecedented precautionary efforts before bringing the rookie back. Now, his season debut is pushed back until January 22nd.

However, maybe your Pels superstar has already arrived. Third-year forward Brandon Ingram showed out in his return after missing the previous game with his own knee injury. Ingram got fans out of their seats with posters, alley-oops, lockdown defense, and a three-pointer or two for good measure.

With Williamson’s return coming in the near future, coach Gentry has the obstacle of fitting Zion into this fast-paced offense. 

Ingram and Williamson both tend to attack the basket and get the majority of their buckets in the paint, but luckily Ingram has the ability to stretch his game. Ingram is currently shooting a career-high from the three-point line at 40.7 percent, his ability to shoot the three-ball and dish it off at times—averaging 4.2 apg—will spread the floor, allowing Williamson to dominate inside.

Fans in the Smoothie King Center roared to the beat of Brandon Ingram’s drum. Photo by Chris Taylor.

From Zion’s perspective, Ingram’s status as an offensive threat—averaging 25.7 ppg—and selfless play could be a nice welcome mat for him as he starts to warm up to the league. But if Zion heats up, it will undoubtedly take a hit on Ingram’s production as the lone star.

No matter how you slice it, though, the return of Williamson will create a dynamic duo that will take the league by storm and fill the Smoothie King Center with even more roars.