In the second quarter, Ingram suffered a sprained ankle and did not return for the second half.
“We’re gonna have to start splitting LeBron and Zo a little more. Get one of them out a little earlier than we’d like,” Walton told reporters of how he’d handle Ingram’s absence from the rotation. “We’re gonna try and have LeBron or Zo on the court most of the game.”
Splitting up Ball and James would make sure the Lakers always have one capable ballhandler on the floor to run their offense, and while James and Ball have been playing well together and Walton said that Lance Stephenson and Svi Mykhailiuk might run some point, it’s still hard to argue the Lakers wouldn’t be better off with at least one of those players on the floor at all times.
Ingram has spent a good chunk of time playing point guard with second unit since Rajon Rondo fractured his hand last month. If Ingram is out, Ball will have to orchestrate the offense in the second unit as well.
While that’s a lot responsibility for the 21-year-old point guard, he said he’s willing to do whatever it takes to win.
“Wherever Luke puts me out there, I’m going to do what I can to help this team win,” Ball said. “I’d have the ball in my hands more initiating the offense, trying to get guys the ball in the right spots and make sure we don’t lose leads.”
Walton thinks Ball is ready for the challenge.
“Any time a young player is given more responsibility like Zo will have now with B.I. being out, it’s a great opportunity for them to get better,” Walton said. “To learn from that and take on that responsibility as a challenge. I think Zo will be up for it.”
However, there are certain things Ball can’t do that Ingram can.
Despite his struggles on offense, Ingram is a better three-level scorer than Ball, as evidenced by the 15.7 points per game he’s averaging this season. The Lakers will also miss his speed and length on defense.
While they’ve shown flashes this season, they’ve struggled to make an impact on either end of the floor with any consistency. If they can’t rise to the challenge, the second unit will struggle to score even with Ball running the show.
With their longest road trip of the season so far coming up, the Lakers can’t afford to go back on any progress they’ve made this season. It won’t be easy, but good teams respond to adversity.
You can follow this author on Twitter at @RadRivas.