NBA Rumors: Lonzo Ball Says He And Brandon Ingram Are ‘Playing Like Leaders’ After Being Called Out By Coach

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The Los Angeles Lakers have had a roller-coaster season so far, starting the season slowly, going on a strong run behind newly acquired superstar LeBron James, then struggling as James suffered a groin injury that has kept him out of the last eight games. The team, however, has won two straight games — improving to 23-19 and eighth place in the Western Conference – and, as noted by Lakers Nation, a lot of it has to do with Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram’s solid play in those two wins.

According to Lakers Nation, Ball and Ingram were recently criticized publicly by Lakers head coach Luke Walton. Walton said that the two youngsters are trying their best to step up in James’ absence, but need to show more “passion” and “fight” on the court.

“It’s not just them, but until we get healthy again, you got to play in this league with some passion and fire. It’s hard to win in this league when you are healthy. So you need to double that effort when guys are down,” Walton stressed, as quoted by ESPN.

With Walton’s words apparently resonating with Ball and Ingram, the two 21-year-olds reportedly had a “serious discussion” about what needed to be done, and have since responded with strong performances.

“We’re playing like we’re leaders on this team right now,” Ball recently commented.

“We’re trying to lead the charge and get the wins. That talk helped us a lot.”

In a win over the Dallas Mavericks on Monday, Brandon Ingram scored 29 points and dished out six assists, with Lonzo Ball adding 21 points, seven rebounds, and five assists — and going 4-for-8 from three-point range. Per a separate report from Lakers Nation, Ingram and Ball took a back seat to Kyle Kuzma (41 points) in their win against the Detroit Pistons, with Ingram still putting up a well-balanced stat line (10 points, nine rebounds, six assists).

At the moment, it appears that the Los Angeles Lakers will have to rely on players such as Ball, Ingram, and Kuzma a little longer — as the team is reportedly playing it safe with LeBron James. According to USA Today, the four-time MVP is expected to miss at least three more games, and is scheduled to be reevaluated on Wednesday.

Although the Lakers are facing a relatively easy schedule in those three games, USA Today added that the team might need James to get healthy sooner rather than later, partly due to the tougher schedule that awaits them as the league draws closer to the All-Star break next month.