In wake of Ben Simmons' injury, Brandon Ingram cautious about weight gain

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -- When news broke Friday that Philadelphia 76ers rookie Ben Simmons, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 draft, had suffered a fractured foot, speculation soon focused on a potential culprit: his weight.

At media day earlier this week, the 6-foot-9 Simmons told reporters that he had gained 33 pounds since leaving LSU and now weighed 250. Simmons was listed at 240 while playing at LSU but told reporters he weighed 217 before the June 23 draft.

"Ben Simmons puts on 33 lbs, now a broken foot. Related? For sure," tweeted longtime NBA trainer Tim Grover, who notably worked with Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. "Athletes can't add that much weight that quickly w/out impacting movement."

Grover had previously made similar comments to ESPN for a TrueHoop Presents story in August on the perils of weight gain in the NBA through the eyes of Los Angeles Lakers rookie Brandon Ingram, whose rail-thin 6-foot-9, 190-pound frame has raised questions about his durability in an 82-game NBA regular season.

However, Ingram and the Lakers have remained cautious and patient, and their focus has been on adding strength, not weight. But with the news of Simmons' injury, Ingram reflected on his own situation after practice Saturday, pointing out that one reason he has taken it slow is to avoid potential injuries that might come with adding too much weight too quickly.

"Definitely. That's one of the reasons I tried to stop the little calorie thing that I had going on," Ingram said, referencing a 5,000-calories-per-day regimen which he endured leading up to the NBA draft. "[It's] just knowing that it's going to be a process. [I'm] not trying to gain weight too fast, knowing that it's going to come over the years as my body matures."

Of course, Ingram hopes the best for Simmons, whom he came to know last season when both were top college prospects.

"I hate it for him," Ingram said. "I just send prayers out to him. He's just a great guy and a great basketball player, and I hope he has a great recovery."

Lakers coach Luke Walton said that in an effort to potentially limit injuries in practice, he's trying to keep the players moving constantly to help them avoid getting stiff.

Speaking of Ingram, Walton said, "I'm not nearly as concerned with his weight. I'm more just focused on how he's developing, how he's growing into the NBA game. He's a lot stronger than he appears."

Ingram again said that he didn't have any specific goals for weight gain.

"As I'm going through the process, it's as much good weight I can put on during the year," he said. "Of course in the summer, you can go a different route and try to gain as much weight as you can. During the season, [I'm] just trying to maintain a weight."

Ingram also pointed out that he weighs about 195 pounds right now, up from 190 during the summer, and has felt a difference.

"I think my game -- you see me and you wouldn't think the way I'm playing is how strong I am," Ingram said. "Just playing stronger, getting lower and trying to use my body a lot more."

"People keep saying how thin [Ingram] is, and he is thin," Walton added, "but we did a one-on-one drill and we told him, you can catch it wherever you want. He scored all of his points from the post against the guards, and he was matched up against Julius [Randle], who's as strong as anybody in this league, and he was holding his own out there."

Walton has continually praised how Ingram has performed throughout training camp against larger players, but for Ingram, it's nothing new.

"I grew up playing bigger guys all my life," he said. "Seeing bigger guys doesn't scare me at all. It just makes me want to battle and compete against those guys, bigger guys."

So how would Ingram rate his performance against the 6-foot-9, 250-pound Randle?

"He has about 60 pounds over me, but I think I held my own," Ingram said with a smile. "He's a big guy, but I just tried to use some of his weaknesses against him and tried to guard a little bit."

And how would Randle judge Ingram?

"He competes," Randle said. "He competes."