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OKC Thunder: Jeremy Lamb hopes to use summer league as a springboard

Thunder guard working on his game, not knowing what his role will be in his third NBA season.
by Darnell Mayberry Published: July 8, 2014

Lamb isn’t sure what his role will be next season. He’s a candidate for the starting shooting guard job after the departure of Thabo Sefolosha. But he said he hasn’t been told which direction the team will go with that spot.

“We just focus on getting better as a team, getting better as players,” Lamb said. “So nobody has discussed that.”

The main thing that’s holding Lamb back is defense. For years, the Thunder has preferred a defensive-minded shooting guard in the starting lineup, someone who can set the tone against the league’s best perimeter scorers and take pressure off of Westbrook and Kevin Durant.

Lamb, at this point, is not that. He might never be. But he’s vowed to improve his defense.

“I’m definitely, definitely going to work on my defense,” Lamb said last month at his exit interview. “I (saw) a lot of players this year; at first, I didn’t care about defense at all, but seeing these players that lock you up, then go score on you, that motivates me. So I definitely will work on my defense and come back a much better defensive player. I think that will help me being a whole overall player. When you disrupt on both ends of the floor, I think that’s huge.”

As he did throughout the season last year, Lamb through his first two summer league games is proving to be a willing defender. But he hasn’t done anything to stand out on that end. In his first game, Lamb split time covering Memphis’ Jamaal Franklin, last year’s 41st overall pick, and Jordan Adams, this year’s 22nd overall selection. In his second outing, Lamb was matched up mostly with former Oklahoma State guard Markel Brown, the 44th overall pick.

The results were mixed.

Franklin scored 10 points on 2-for-8 shooting, but Adams posted 22 points on 5-for-12 shooting. Brown finished with seven points on 2-for-4 shooting.

But Lamb has made it clear that scoring is his biggest strength. When asked what area he can make the biggest impact on next season, Lamb said putting the ball in the basket.

That’s clearly been his main focus in Orlando.

Lamb has scored 40 points on 33 shots in his first two games. He’s attempted 14 3-pointers, 15 free throws and dished just three assists. When the ball has been in his hands, more often than not a shot has gone up.

But maybe it’s all a part of his plan to develop his ball-handling and assertiveness.

“I’m trying to get better,” Lamb said. “Your shot’s not going to be on every game so you’ve got to learn different ways to do it, whether that’s getting to the free-throw line, mid-range, getting to the hole, whatever it is you’ve just got to find a way.”