Having played nice minutes throughout the preseason, including a 12-point, eight-rebound performance against the Thunder, Jeremy Lamb was starting to feel comfortable with his impending role for the Houston Rockets.
He was finally adapting to professional life in a new city.
Then, without warning, the 20-year-old rookie was relocated again, shipped to his second franchise in his second city before his first official game.
“It was just a big shock to me really,” Lamb said of the infamous James Harden trade that sent him to Oklahoma City just four days before last season. “I was surprised. I didn't know what to expect.
When Lamb arrived in OKC, the personal stresses of another move awaited him. And so did a stacked roster.
Whereas he was likely to get minutes, opportunity and freedom on the rebuilding Rockets, Lamb was suddenly buried beneath a veteran Thunder backcourt built for a title run.
“I wasn't frustrated, I was just lost,” Lamb admitted. “It was like I was starting all over, meeting new teammates.”
But as the season progressed, Lamb got a better grasp of his new life. And the practices and training sessions began to pile up. But the minutes did not.
The highly touted rookie out of Connecticut played only 147 minutes last year, or about the equivalent of what fellow rookie Damian Lillard compiled every four games in Portland.
“Of course, going through the season, it got frustrating,” Lamb said. “That just inspired me to work harder. Nobody wants to sit on the bench, so I was just doing what I could to get off of it.”
That included long hours in the gym with assistant coach Rex Kalamian and enough successful assignments to the D-League that he was named to its All-Star team.
And whatever he did behind the scenes this offseason, it was enough for the frugal Thunder front office to forget about the open market for a Kevin Martin replacement, instead opting for Lamb as an in-house promotion.
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