April 12, 2024

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Brandon Ingram injury update: Pelicans star says he’ll be back when he feels like himself again

Brandon Ingram injury update: Pelicans star says he’ll be back when he feels like himself again

Brandon Ingram of the New Orleans Pelicans has not played in a while. He suffered what the team has termed a “left great toe contusion” in a game against the Memphis Grizzlies on Nov. 25 and has been sidelined since. At practice on Thursday, Ingram told reporters that “confidence” is the biggest thing in between him and his return to the court. 

“Confidence in pushing off,” Ingram said. “Confidence in being back to who I want to be. Trying to be explosive, trying to just be myself. That’s the biggest thing. If I don’t feel like myself, then I know it’s not time to be on the floor.”

He is unsure of exactly when he’ll come back. The “trickiest thing,” he said, is when he is “feeling like I’m ready, but I’m not quite ready.” Pelicans coach Willie Green told reporters that it has been “a slow process” for Ingram, and that “it’s been tough on him.”

“Some days I feel really really good, and recovery is bad,” Ingram said. “Some days, recovery is good. So whenever I feel 100 percent, I’ll give it a go. But it’s hard to say right now.”

Green said that the team is “hopeful to get him back sometime soon,” but the main priority is “to get him back healthy” and avoid setbacks, as the big-picture goal is to build toward being as competitive as possible in the playoffs. 

The good news is that New Orleans has thrived without Ingram. With a 22-12 record, it is tops in the West, despite the fact that Zion Williamson and Ingram have played only 12 games together (and CJ McCollum missed two of them). The Pelicans ran sixth in offense, sixth in defense and third in point differential, and Williamson has bulldozed his way into the MVP conversation. In the 12 games Williamson has played since Ingram’s injury, he has averaged 29.8 points on 68.2 percent true shooting, plus 7.8 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.0 blocks, and New Orleans has scored 121.7 points per 100 possessions in his minutes. 

“It’s pretty tough because I want to be on the court,” Ingram said. “Especially with our team success that we’ve been having lately, I want to be a part of it.”

Ingram said that he won’t just “fit in” when he returns — “they’re still going to have to give me the ball” — but he’ll be focused on communicating on the court and “using my IQ” to make things easier for his teammates. Ideally, when he’s in the lineup the Pelicans will be “blowing out teams” and the starters will be getting more rest, he said.

If that happens, it will be because Ingram, Williamson and McCollum have found a rhythm together offensively. The Pelicans are coming off a game in which Williamson scored 14 straight points in less than three minutes in crunch time and scored a career-high 43 points on 14-for-21 shooting. (“We really had diverse play-calling down the stretch: Get the ball to Z and get the f— out the way,” McCollum said.) The last thing they want to do is take the ball out of Williamson’s hands, but they don’t want to marginalize their other All-Star-caliber forward, either.

New Orleans is deep at every position, and injuries have dictated its rotation for much of the season. Lately, Naji Marshall has been in the starting lineup, and the 24-year-old wing has averaged 14.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 30.7 minutes in the last four games, all wins. Against Minnesota, Trey Murphy III scored 21 points in 27 minutes, making five of his seven 3-point attempts. This is precisely the sort of stuff every team wants to see when one of its best players is sidelined.

Every team also wants to see injured stars return swiftly and seamlessly. The former has not happened for Ingram, but the latter is more important.