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Lakers plan to bring rookie Brandon Ingram off bench to start season

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Brandon Ingram is carrying goals into his rookie season, one of them being to win NBA Rookie of the Year honors.

"Absolutely, I would be lying if I said I wasn't," the Los Angeles Lakers forward and No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 draft said at Media Day on Monday. "And I think I'm going to work extremely hard to do that."

But Ingram's quest toward that award will begin on the bench rather than being in the starting lineup.

"That drives me," Ingram said. "If it was given, it wouldn't drive me as much to be the best player that I can be. Just coming off the bench and showing that I can be one of the best players on the floor, I think it just gives me motivation to work hard each and every day."

The Lakers' plan to initially utilize Ingram as a reserve is part of bigger-picture strategy to help ease the 19-year-old and former Duke standout into the grind of the NBA's 82-game regular-season schedule, especially as Ingram works to strengthen his thin 6-foot-9, 190-pound frame.

"I think it's going to be a long season on a young player that has to be stronger, has to get stronger, has to show that he can play for 82 games," Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said Tuesday as the Lakers' opened training camp at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

"I don't anticipate that [Ingram] would start. It's not something that I think has to happen, even though he's the No. 2 pick."

Kupchak added of Ingram, "He's got to continue to work not only on his game but he's got to continue to work on stamina and getting stronger in his league. Certainly we've had players in this league that did not have great strength that were very successful, but there is a part of me that says 82 games, he has to work on every day taking care of his body, his diet, rest and make it through an 82-game season, because I think he's going to play a lot.

"Our other rookie [center Ivica Zubac], I'm not sure that's the case, but he has to work in practice. But I do expect Brandon to play and we did take him No. 2, so clearly we felt that there's a great upside there, so we have to see progress as the season goes along."

Ingram pointed out that he's working to gain more strength, not weight, and that doing so will take time.

"I'm just trying to get stronger -- not a lot about weight - [but] just trying to get stronger each and every day," he said. "Of course it takes a lot of patience. Of course I have to wait for my body to mature. I'm only 19. But I'm doing whatever I can to help."