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Pelicans’ Brandon Ingram gets 100% real confidence in an impressive game against Kings after recent struggles

The Pelicans are betting on Brandon Ingram in a big way for an NBA Play-In Tournament victory over the Kings.

The New Orleans Pelicans had NBA Playoffs goals to start the 2023-2024 season. Willie Green’s group was in pretty good shape at the end of March and held fourth place in the Western Conference for a few days. A late-season plunge nearly destroyed the goodwill built over the previous six months, though the team did secure the final postseason spot by narrowly surviving the NBA Play-In tournament.

The win came down to confidence in the locker room that a frustrated Brandon Ingram would take the lead while an injured Zion Williamson watched from the sidelines. Ingram delivered 24 points (10-20 FGA), six assists, six rebounds and a block in the 105-98 win over the visiting Sacramento Kings. The former All-Star was 6-10 in the second half.

The pressure of the moment was not lost on Ingram, who is looking for a contract extension this summer.

“I knew how important this was, not just for me, but for the entire organization,” Ingram said. “I’m just trying to be ready. I knew I would be ready today, whatever it took, both offensively and defensively. I knew I had to communicate with my teammates and keep communicating throughout the game. That helped us enormously.”

Trust should not only be built with the player and the coach. The entire Pelicans locker room needs to see and hear Ingram’s honest leadership.

“I think it’s really important for all of us to communicate honestly, especially what we need on the floor and our habits off the floor,” Ingram continued. “Our discipline, everything we need to be together and trust each other. We only trust each other when we see guys doing things over and over again. We have to see the consistency every day in the gym when guys go in to practice. How hard they go in their training and how hard we go in our training. Communication is important if we want to be successful.”

Brandon Ingram carries the Pelicans while in foul trouble

    New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram (14) dribbles against Sacramento Kings forward Harrison Barnes (40) in the first half during a play-in game of the 2024 NBA playoffs at Smoothie King Center.
Stephen Lew – USA TODAY Sports

Ingram’s moment was almost taken away by the officials. According to Green, the Pelicans have struggled to get a fair whistle all season, but this was too risky a situation.

Well, until Ingram and Green huddled on the sidelines.

“I told him I’m taking you out,” Green explained. “(Ingram) said, ‘No, I want you to trust me.’ That’s the relationship part where he and I, along with the rest of the guys, build a relationship. That’s a moment where I said, ‘Okay. I trust you, but you better not get your fourth and he was able to play through it.

It’s a decision Green may not have made in the last two games, both losses to the Los Angeles Lakers on national television.

“Yes, we had a discussion about the last two Lakers games and how to move forward. He was great. Everything you want your players to say, he covered in that discussion. He talked about how he wants to get better. He wants to be the best he can be for this team. This was the moment where he wanted to go one step further and prove it, and tonight he did just that.”

Green didn’t shy away from lifting the spirits of a struggling All-Star.

“Number one, it’s my responsibility. I am here to serve,” Green said. “That is leadership. If these guys need anything, if they want to talk, if I want to communicate with them, just be open and honest… BI was ready. Even if I hadn’t said anything to him at all, he still would have been ready.

Ingram’s willingness, however, was never in question.

“(Ingram) was big for us, and he had that look in his eye from the moment he walked into the gym after the loss to the Lakers,” Green noted. “His ability to put the team on his shoulders – this was the moment he wanted. He wanted a moment where he could step in and help the team win an important game. Especially after a few games in which he did not play at a high level, but with a huge effort on his part.”

Ingram hasn’t lacked confidence despite some rough outings of late and Green’s concerns over some foul trouble.

“I thought I had the match under control. In the first and second quarters I thought I had the game under control. I knew it was time to run…I just wanted to stay on the ground and be a part of it.”

As for the challenge ahead with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Ingram is more appreciative than concerned about this opportunity with the Pelicans.

“It feels good (back to the NBA Playoffs). This was the goal at the beginning of this year. Throughout the season we’ve had some injuries, some different things happening, but today we had another chance. We came in and everyone did their part.”

Everyone also trusted Ingram to come through in a big moment. That confidence has paid off and the Pelicans now have to hope that Ingram can stave off the Thunder long enough for Williamson to rejoin the rotations. Reaching a Game 5 or extending the series to a Game 7 would go a long way in boosting the front office’s confidence in an upcoming contract extension for Ingram.