ORLANDO, Fla. — Jeremy Lamb labored through much of the Thunder’s opening-day game at the Orlando Pro Summer League.
He struggled with his shot. He turned the ball over. He failed to make his teammates better.
His final stat line: 14 points, 4-for-12 shooting, 1-for-7 from 3-point range, five rebounds, two assists, two blocks and four turnovers in 30 minutes.
The Thunder suffered a shocking 84-63 loss at the hands of Memphis.
After sitting out Sunday against Philadelphia as a scheduled day of rest, Lamb returned to the court Monday against Brooklyn and performed much better. He scored a game-high 26 points. He pulled down eight rebounds. He worked his way to the free-throw line eight times.
The Thunder won, 98-84.
“Jeremy’s a great competitor,” said Thunder assistant/summer league coach Darko Rajakovic. “Jeremy’s a winner. And when his team needs him most, he gives his best games. And he proved that again tonight. He’s proved that a lot of times.”
The manner in which Lamb bounced back was reminiscent of Reggie Jackson at last year’s summer league. In his first game, Jackson had a similarly disappointing performance. He scored four points on 2-for-7 shooting, had four rebounds, four assists, four fouls and seven turnovers in 17 minutes. But the next game, Jackson erupted for an Orlando Pro Summer League record 35 points, 23 of which came in the fourth quarter. He netted 18 straight at one point.
“I didn’t do nothing comparing to what Reggie did last year,” said Lamb, who was also on that year’s summer league team. “He had 23 in a quarter. I had 20-whatever in the game. What Reggie did was unbelievable. But you always want to bounce back. You always want to get better from game to game, so it builds confidence being able to bounce back. I still missed a lot of shots. But I stayed aggressive. My team believed in me.”
For all we know, two summer league games could be only the beginning of the similarities between Jackson and Lamb.
Jackson used summer league last year as a springboard to a highly successful third season. He became a vital member of the Thunder’s rotation as the sixth man and on-again, off-again starter while Russell Westbrook recovered from knee surgeries. With double the minutes, Jackson upped his scoring average from 5.3 points to 13.1 points. He increased his rebounds from 2.4 to 3.9 and kicked up his assists from 1.7 to 4.1.
Lamb is now looking to do the same.
“I definitely got confidence now that I’ve been through my second year and going into my third,” Lamb said. “But I still have a lot to learn. It’s a lot of things I want to get better at. A lot of things I want to add to my game. So I’m just getting started.”