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Pelicans' Brandon Ingram wins NBA's Most Improved Player Award

New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram was selected to his first All-Star Game this year. File Photo by Nuccio Dinuzzo/EPA-EFE
New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram was selected to his first All-Star Game this year. File Photo by Nuccio Dinuzzo/EPA-EFE

Aug. 31 (UPI) -- New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram capped his breakout 2019-20 season by capturing the NBA's Most Improved Player Award on Monday.

Ingram was notified of winning the award by his parents while on a video conference call with team owner Gayle Benson and teammate Lonzo Ball.

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"I think this year I had the most fun, playing basketball the way I wanted to play and having the opportunity to be in the gym every day with my teammates who love to do the same thing that I love to do," Ingram said after Monday's announcement.

"Seeing so many guys coming back to the gym all the time, always asking for different advice on the floor so they can get better in their game. That was the most enjoyable moment for me. I don't think I have a stat or anything that made me the happiest or motivated me the most."

Ingram, who turns 23 on Wednesday, set career highs in points (23.8), rebounds (6.1), assists (4.2) and steals (one) per game this season. He also shot a career-best 39.1% from 3-point range and 85.1% from the free throw line in his first season in New Orleans after being traded by the Los Angeles Lakers in the Anthony Davis blockbuster deal last summer.

This season, Ingram -- battling back from a blood clotting issue that forced him to miss almost half of the 2018-19 campaign -- made his first All-Star Game appearance and helped the Pelicans reach the NBA's seeding games inside the bubble near Orlando, Fla.

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Ingram (326 points) earned the award over Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo (295 points). They were followed by Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (101 points), Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum (57 points) and Charlotte Hornets guard Devonte' Graham (50 points).

So far, the NBA has named Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse its Coach of the Year and Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo its Defensive Player of the Year. The league must still crown the Most Valuable Player, Rookie of the Year and Sixth Man of the Year.

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